ON A summer’s day River Green at Ringland quickly fills up with picnickers and paddlers. But within a hundred yards the canoeist leaves civilisation behind. The river winds left and a long row of elegant poplars demand to have their pictures taken, their trunks reflecting in the crystal clear water.
Then the Wensum begins a long lazy meander. Cattle graze the meadows to the left while horses are stabled on the right bank. Today, an early June day that felt like hot July, I heard one solitary cuckoo and caught a glimpse of a retreating kingfisher. Banded demoiselle damselflies flitted from leaf to leaf by the dozen, the blue-black band across their wings making the males instantly recognisable.
Swans too were on patrol. Give them a wide berth and you’ll be fine. They are very territorial, especially when protecting a nest. If they curve their neck back and half raise their wings, watch out. It’s called “busking” and it’s a warning to keep away. I’ve yet to use my paddle, but I’ve felt safer with it on a couple of occasions.
Nature has provided a new bridge on this stretch. A poplar has fallen clean across the river, creating a dam to be by-passed. Was it the wet winter of 2013/14 that did the damage? Then the river gets more claustrophobic. Dodge and weave around low-lying branches of alder and white willow.
Costessey Lane gets closer in time to catch a view of the white-washed Beehive Lodge, originally one of the lodges for the long-demolished Costessey Hall. Then road and river diverge, leaving longer and longer gardens for the selection of static caravans and houses which lie undetected by all but us river-users. Almost every one has its own home-made staithe, even if it’s just scaffold poles and aluminium ladders. And then the country becomes more open again. To the left, the grounds of Taverham Hall prep school, to the right, the Taverham Mill nature reserve. After three miles on the river, the sluices here mean our journey’s at an end.
Turn around in the slower water dominated by yellow water-lilies and head for home.
* Non-natives to Ringland need a £5 annual licence to launch from River Green in Ringland. See the Ringland Parish Council website for details.