Of Kingfishers and Kestrels

I've been trying to get a few folks from Bushcraft UK together for a while, not too obsessively you understand, just trying to meet up with a few like-minded folks.  Well, things looked quite good for the last weekend in July, but as it turned out only Ian (aka Wanderinstar) and myself were able to make it.

Starting from the slip at Malton again, we took the boats down on trolleys this time instead of my previous off-road experience.  Ian has quite a nice car and it didn't seem sensible, the ground being much wetter this time too.  It's a fair walk to the slip, but at least far enough to justify strapping boats to trolleys.  Quickly on the water and with drizzle falling from the skies we headed up stream through the town.

Ian's relatively new to canoeing and explained that this was his first paddle on a river.  Apart from a slightly suspect 'J' stroke he seemed fine though.  Our plan was simple, just head up-stream 'til we felt the need for food, find somewhere suitable for some grub and then gently paddle back.  I think you might be getting the idea of why my canoe is called 'Jus Chillin'.

Ian emerging from the shrubbery which lines the Derwent and at times threatens to join branches, blocking the way.

Ian emerging through the shrubbery!

Once passed the bridge supports from the old Driffield line I was in a part of the Derwent I'd not paddled for several years.  So this was a nice refresher for me as well as a new experience for Ian.  With several varieties of Willows lining the banks, making up the majority of trees, himalayan balsm was the other most commonly seen plant.  As we made our way past the back of Orchard Fields and the site of the roman fort a few small birds started to show themselves.  Small grey-brown jobs I'm afraid, not really an ornithologist, so a wild stab at warblers of some desciption would be my guess.  We did spot a Long-tail Tit though.

Ian said he'd only seen one Kingfisher before, so having seen plenty here in the past - I had high hopes we might raise this total by one or two.  Passed St Mary's Priory Church you go through a length of river that most wouldn't know is a man made cut which once had a lock for the passage of vessels.  The main river being on a loop by the Royal Oak, all this now long gone and where the loop once flowed a car park sits.

Heading out from Old Malton we paddled through a section of river that, despite the river being a little high and discoloured, was only four or so feet deep and flowing faster.  I don't recall the river being like this, though it seems unlikely to have changed in character so greatly since I last paddled it.  I guess my paddling this section in the dark on most occasions having started from the Providence at Yedingham might explain my lack of familiarity with this.  Or maybe I'm simply suffering from a dodgy memory.  Shortly after this I spotted our first Kingfisher, just a flash of blue heading off up-stream, but still satisfying to see.

Ian heads up-stream further

Ian heading up-stream.

Approaching the A64 the peace and quiet we'd enjoyed dissappeared and the noise of busy traffic brings you back to the 21st century.  Sadly, with the wind blowing to the north the noise accompanied us for some way after passing under this busy road.  Still, Ian had settled into things and was looking very comfortable and paddling like a pro.

Ian looking like a pro.

Stomachs were rumbling and throats getting dry so time to find somewhere suitable for a stop for sarnies etc.  This proved more difficult than we expected.  I'd thought we should, by now, be in an area where cattle would have made drinking places in the river where we would be able to easily get out.  This simply wasn't the case, so we continued upstream for quite a while.  Finally we decided that we could go on for ages without success and looked for anywhere we could climb the bank.  Our lunch spot ended up looking like this.

Stopped for lunch.

I doubt an area slipping into the river was highest on Ian's mind for a get out place, but needs must and we did okay for a couple of blokes the wrong side of forty.  Finding shelter the other side of the flood bank behind a Hawthorn we settled down for a brew and a bite.  Ian firing up his military Trangia, which looked far more business-like than the one I own - he soon had a cuppa, while I opened my trusty flask and swiftly made some tea.  Not perhaps very bushcrafty, but swift and satisfying never-the-less.  Time to sit and yarn was enjoyed and even the rain held off for a short while.

Back on the water we had the wind against us, not really a problem to paddle against, but a nuisance if you stopped to look at something and a gust caught you while you weren't concentrating.  Soon after heading back downstream we saw another Kingfisher, and then another.  I even saw two at once.  I think I'm going to have to head back one day to try and sit quietly to catch one on a perch while fishing so I can get a proper photo.

Back to the A64 and the noise of traffic.  This time though we could hear something else, a bird of prey making a lot of noise.  It sounded like a Kestrel, with a classic 'kee kee'.  Looking up into the tall Ash tree the sound was coming from you could make out a largish bird flapping fairly wildly in the upper branches.  It looked to me as though we were witnessing a young kestrel about to fledge.  Very pleasing to see!

A little further on in a tree with very little foliage I caught a glimpse of a woodpecker, I could only see it as a silhouette so couldn't tell which model woodpecker it was.  We continued to see Kingfishers and I lost count of how many, well into double figures - very pleasing. The weather started to look less inviting now and before long we felt the pitter patter of rain drops.  We passed a Swan with three cygnets and shortly after her partner.  No problem passing them, unlike others I've encountered which have well deserved their 'thugs with angels wings' description.

We might be getting wet because of the rain, but at least we were being sheltered from the wind, so started to make easy progress.  Back into town the rain eased off, coming to a stop as we approached County Bridge.  Sadly, this is were my tale takes a turn for the worse.  As we passed under the bridge we became aware of a group of teenagers walking along the footpath overlooking the river.  Now, I don't normally have a problem with groups like this, in fact, I find you can often have a bit of a chuckle with folks singing hawaii-5-o themes etc.  Not this lot though, they had a quick whip-round and collectively summoned a room temperature IQ, with which they chose to spit at us.  To say I was livid would have been an understatment!  I charged off down-stream to find somewhere to land with the intention of letting them know exactly what I thought.  Fortunately I came to my senses before I found myself bleeding over them and we continued paddling back to the slip.  My anger sated by the effort of trying to make my canoe skip across the water in an Asterix the Gaul fashion.

Under the last bridge and only a few minutes to get back to the slip, Trolleys back together and canoes strapped on, a stroll through the grass again took us back to the cars.  With the boats back on our cars, we had another brew and yarn before saying goodbye and heading for home.

Thanks for coming Ian, and, knobbers and weather withstanding, I hope you enjoyed yourself.

Written by Al Girling

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