So this morning, I went for a paddle on the Stour, from Bryanston School, headed downstream to the Blandord Weir. What started off looking like a thouroughly miserable actually turned out pretty well, the rain held off, it wasn't overly cold and there was plenty of water in the river.
En route to the weir, we must drop down over the Bryanston Weir, a 6ft drop into a great churn of water. Some of our group got out went round it, others over the edge. It's an exilerating decision to make, gaining the momentum and commiting to drop. Once on the lower level, there's time for a quick surf in the weir and is we did, came a sight not often witnessed in this neck of the woods. Leaping from the lower level, trying desperately to make the distance, were wild salmon. This is the kind of the thing you see on a Ray Mears or David Attenborough documentary, and here they were just on the tip of this lovely Georgian town.
After a few minutes of watching the action, we continued to make our way down to the weir, passing cormorants and kingfishers going about their daily busines. A few hours of surfing, edging and general playboating, we made for home.
Heading back up the river, a heron stood proud on some old reeds that had gathered. It took flight as we approached and stuck close to the water, making a distinct call as it passed low a quick as if acknowledge our presence and amount of distain for our untimely interruption.
Getting close to the Bryantson weir once again, a couple of us were ahead of the rest up stream. We heard some distinctive squeeky noises from the far side of the river and made our way over, somewhat curious as to who was leading this high pitched conversation. We nestled next to some reeds and just watched, as not one, not two, but three large otters gradually appeared. One was on the bank keeping watch, as the other two dived and resurfaced, their highly distinguished heads breaking the glistening water as they searched out the salmon we witnessed earlier.
The group of otters looked at us closely to begin with, edging slightly closer to get an idea of what we were about. As the rest of our party arrived, the otters obviously felt a little outnumbered and made for the bushes that lined the river bank. The others departed and I stayed, quiet and still hoping that they'd return.
A couple of squeeks and some splashing at the base of the weir and I was priviledged to be the only member of the audience at this special show of playful interaction and industrious workmanship. Before I realised, the others were gone and me and my new buddies were all alone, having lost track of the time I spent observing and listening in this peaceful place. And so, I too made for home leaving the otters to their games and work.
I kicked myself that I left my house without my camera, but at the same time, feel that beyond the rawness of my presence in such a traditional watercraft (OK, so it's made of plastic, but you know what I mean) that my experience would have been less spiritual if my main concern was how good my shots were going to turn out.
So as I right this, the smile on my face suggests a new and envigorated appreciation for my local town and the pleasant surprises it still has up its sleeve.