Having arrived in town early for my meeting, I do what I often do with half an hour to kill in Hebden Bridge, and head over to the river to see if there are any dippers around. The flagged area at the side of Hebden Water is packed with children feeding the ducks. I’d forgotten the school holidays began this week. I move to a quieter spot and sit down.
No sign of any dippers, but there’s time yet. I love this: just looking at the view, chilling, waiting to see what comes along. Nature waiting, I like to call it. Just sit, and relax, and think idly about stuff. Quality time.
The mallards are looking a bit drab after the breeding season. The males’ emerald green head-feathers have faded, but they look healthy enough—despite all the white sliced-bread.
Still no sign of any dippers. You quite often see them here, flying low above the river, bobbing up and down on the rocks (hence: dipper), hunting for food in the shallows. They’re real river-lubbers, never venturing even as far as the banks. Definitely one of my top-ten birds: a songbird that swims underwater, what’s not to like?
I walk up on to the town’s eponymous packhorse bridge and look straight down at the ducks squabbling over pieces of stale Toastie. A bird’s eye view of birds. It would make an unusual photo. I start to take out my camera, but someone throws a ball into the river for their border collie to retrieve, and the ducks scatter. So I put my camera away and watch the dog instead.
It’s beginning to drizzle, though barely enough to make me wet. I glance at my watch: it’s almost to be off. Still no sign of any dippers. But, if I saw them every time, it wouldn’t be as special.
“…wonderfully droll, witty and entertaining… At their best Carter’s moorland walks and his meandering intellectual talk are part of a single, deeply coherent enterprise: a restless inquiry into the meaning of place and the nature of self.”
—Mark Cocker, author and naturalist
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