Tier 4 (Day 2) Whitlingham Broad

The sky cleared from noon and sunshine drew people out into the fresh air. By mid afternoon, if in the sun, it felt warm. Sitting by the broad at Whitlingham I was entertained by a large cormorant fishing just beyond the yellowed reeds.

When a cormorant slips beneath the surface it leaves barely a ripple, the disappearance marked by a fine trail of bubbles, which betray its submarine hunting. Unusually this oily bird kept returning to a spot not far from where it set off.

On the river in the city the location of resurfacing is harder to spot. I have watched a pair fishing on occasion on the north side of Lady Julian Bridge in the wide turning pool there. It is quite a game to try and see how long the cormorants remain under water and to try and spy them before they dissolve into the murk again. Sometimes the first indication of one surfacing is a glint of light on a curved back as another dive commences.

At the broad this afternoon, there was a large number of walkers. The café was open for takeaways. All the car parks were open, but were not full. At the bench various dogs snuffled by to investigate we sitters. One a very young black Labrador bounced up and enjoyed having the back of its neck ruffled. The owner was miles off the pace and seemed to think that the puppy would learn not to jump up just because he asked it, when he eventually caught up. It was a good thing that the hound was happy to fool around the bench, rather than bound on further.

Out in the broad, sat on some wooden railings, a motley crew of gulls used the structure as a station from which to wheel and chase each other. One plunged spectacularly into the water. Immature herring gulls mixed with the smaller gulls in winter plumage causing their usual disturbances to the order of the day.

Yesterday I saw a sizeable gathering of long-tailed tits, which always reminds me of wintery walks in Sussex. Today a solitary great tit was working its way through the birch trees by the water’s edge. Despite only seeing a few smaller birds today, the woodlands around Trowse Newton were vibrant with a variety of birdsong. The soft air carried in with the last of the storm last night seems to have encouraged an increase in the volume and variety of singing.

Up on the riverbank it is possible to see across the railway and into the village of Thorpe St. Andrew that rises up to the north. The old village is now part of the greater city, but still has a distinctive character of its own. It is inaccessible on foot from the Whitlingham side of the river, which runs slow, wide and flat today.

On the Thorpe side there are a few creeks and boathouses. The pleasure craft on the far bank include a sunken motor cruiser, still tethered to its mooring. Three orange-beaked geese, possibly of the Taiga Bean Goose family, appeared in an elegant line from the black shadow below the railway bridge. There are swans, of course and Canada geese.

Once the Sun has gone the night closes rapidly in accompanied by an equally sharp drop in temperature. A good night for star gazing. A good night to settle in with a book and some music. I test my emotional resilience by listening to a Roy Orbison compilation. It is great to wallow – occasionally. Heart achingly painful is the best way to sum up the Orbison repertoire.

In Dreams and Only The Lonely are great songs, but if you want to feel your skin to chill play A Love So Beautiful. Package that up with It’s Over and Running Scared and you have a perfect sound track for a lonely night in. Pick up the pieces in the morning with the dawn chorus. Roy Orbison makes the prospect of tomorrow and a new day an enticing prospect. Have a friend’s phone number handy and keep the cork in the bottle so you retain semblance of self-control.


CLP 27/12/2020