Railway Bridge Worcester to Birmingham Canal

Water, and the year’s end


Along the canal.

In brightness, an artery: a sparkling supply of life and space, nurturing the city.

In darkness, a vein: deep and sluggish, purply oozing, thick with the cares of the cyclists, cygnets, peeling hulls and wailing gulls, as it drains down to the Severn.

It slips silently between alternate states. Today my tread starts heavy. The air is dense and the willow boughs stoop. Whitening leaves tickle the nut-brown water.

I do not love this place. But it has its role in the rhythms of my life. In a calm section, flanked by factories’ booming tin walls, clouds appear in pristine reflection. It is ever a mirror for my mood, this waterway, and today is autumnal. The ducks find cover from the chill wind on concrete pontoons, amongst the last streaks of violet buddleia.

On to the docks at Diglis, where the canal disgorges passengers onto the Severn, into Sabrina’s care. The sun is out now, and a grey heron, unsteady on young limbs, gingerly steps and flaps between well-kept moorings.

Young Grey Heron, Diglis, Worcester

Young Grey Heron, Diglis

Past the river-locks, over the footbridge and a pause to eat. Onwards up the riverbank, where the cattle are grazing Chapter Meadows, as they have done for a thousand years or more, each late summer and autumn.

The horse chestnuts scatter spiky pouches of promise across the path, and my boy breaks one open, clutching the silky conker within. We turn for home, and are caught in a squall, arriving sodden as the waterways we’ve walked alongside.

It is almost Michaelmas, the end of the old year. The harvest is in, the orchards yield their last fruits, and the blackberries are ending. It is a time of reflection, of melancholy. Come October, we will start afresh.


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