Wensum, by Jim Harding, Tuesday, August 9, 2016


A split tree on the path by the river

And the bankside path down from the three brick arches bridge is no longer in flood or submerged in mud.

Amazingly, this was still the case in late June with wellies the essential footwear. Dog walkers had little choice but to avoid the watery section. At any rate when wading through myself I never encountered a four-legged swimmer on the leash. One legacy of all this has been stricken trees collapsing all over the place. Many have keeled into the river itself, altering the flow if not quite damming it. Others have temporarily blocked the path back into town, obliging short diversions or a scramble through the branches. None of this bothers the wildlife, of course. The barn owls, egrets, herons and birds of prey have been in their element by the waterside or on the neighbouring flood plain. And what a joy it’s been to see the swans and their grey cygnets sailing serenely by. The family I’ve followed numbers seven in all. The fenced fields prepared by Pensthorpe for its rare breed longhorn cattle have been largely left abandoned to the weather. I’m sure after their winter break the herd was due back many months ago but swamp conditions forced a delay. Happily, these gentle giants are now chewing the cud again.

With the river so high for so long, life beneath the surface was all but lost to the passer-by. In its current quiet mood, the clear water reveals hundreds of fish to anyone who cares to pause for a look. From tiny tiddlers to good sized brown trout. Maybe we could all benefit from this sort of pause occasionally.

And so to Rio. Television screens will be dominated by the Olympics for weeks to come and I admit to being a great enthusiast of this sporting festival. It’s easy to be critical but this supreme bonanza is a fantastic highlight for all the men and women who take part and for us ‘sports nuts’ who watch from the sidelines. I was lucky enough to attend the Mexico Games in 1968 which will for ever remain a personal climax. When it was all over my thoughts turned to coming home but having met up with another rucksack traveller I found myself joining him through the countries of Central America down to Panama. From there we continued our adventure around South America, sometimes together, sometimes solo. Our paths separated in Brazil after visiting the amazing Iguazu Falls. Heading north I spent a week in Rio, enjoying the sands of Copacabana beach and taking the cable car up to Corcovado with its mighty statue of Christ overlooking the whole city. These images will doubtless become familiar to those of you who follow the Olympic cavalcade over the coming days. With all the doping controversies in the run-up let’s hope it all passes off peacefully and in the spirit of the original concept

If you’re in town today, the Fakenham branch of the Mothers’ Union would appreciate your cycling support, however brief. A static bike has been set up inside the parish church in the hope of keeping it pedalling all day for a very good cause. The main aim is to raise money for disadvantaged children and help provide them with adventure breaks at Horstead House, the Diocese of Norwich adventure centre on the edge of the Norfolk Broads. This coming Saturday[August 13]there’s a grand book and jigsaw fair in church from 9am until noon with an outstanding choice of new and second-hand books.