Saturday, 21 February 2009
This afternoon I took advantage of what has been, so far, the most spring-like day this year. Cycling into a sky scratched over with contrails and high goose feather clouds, so high in fact that they made me lift my head periodically throughout the ride. I took my trusty steed down to the river to chase the rowers down the Cam, to watch the students limbering up on the river bank, or the crews in their oily shades and House 'colours' washing down the slick white hulls of rested boats, messing about, Cambridge was messing about, and most certainly smiling from without.
I was headed for the small village of Coton, via the winding lanes that sucked me away from the crowds of Saturday shoppers, and as the white chalk graffiti on the college wall said, 'Down to the River'. I followed the fading arrow to the stone bridge at the back of Jesus college. The narrow approach was slowed by pedestrian traffic, so I let my bell sing out, whilst inside I mouthed empty thoughts in double Dutch and Niel Young sang 'Down by the River'.
Crossing the 'Backs' I slid along a wonderful path that snakes down past the University Library and on towards the open fields at the edge of Cambridge. Here in the hedgerows I stared up into the soft stripy plumage of a female Reed Bunting (see photo above, not mine), buttered up in the falling sun, and further on towards Coton I watched a Yellowhammer calling by the cycle track.
Following the same route back I returned to the river again, just in time to catch the sun's embers, bright contrails and bruised soap clouds wrapping around a clutch of boats chuffing down stream. The students were already clinking glasses on the boat house balconies, their boystress laughter rattling off across the sunset.