Thursday, 9 June 2016

June 9th Hellesdon Mill

Hellesdon Mill
The River Wensum is the lifeblood of the city of Norwich. It flows through the heart of the city every day. It is a wonderful river to walk along in its urban setting, but just a few miles upriver, the Wensum is something almost picturesque. I have escaped the stuffy confines of my flat for a couple of hours for some fresh air and to stretch my legs at Hellesdon Mill, a place I have never been before. This is an old watermill that sits across the river and though its no longer in use as a mill, the water still passes through its arches like a small rapid gushing down.

Sedge Warbler
Once through the mill, the water returns to its natural state. On a warm summer's day, such as today, this stretch of the river feels peaceful and natural. You forget that signs of urbanisation is just next door with a road and some houses right alongside it on our side of the river. On the opposite side, a large reed bed glows green with fresh growth. Sedge warblers sing frantically amongst it, claiming their territories from the tops of the tallest reeds. Every now and then, they leap into the air and parachute back down singing all the while as part of their courtship display.

The river itself is so clear that you could see the bottom. Minnows shelter within the shade provided by trees. They float lazily above the sediment at the bottom of the river in large groups. Their markings blend in well with their surroundings. However, their movements betray their disguise and I can spot them easily. A common tern hovers over the river and plunges into it. I expect it can see the minnows too.

Common Tern
Grey Wagtail
A male grey wagtail perches on top of the wall of the mill. He poses for a while, wagging his yellow tail up and down uncontrollably. His breast is flushed with bright yellow, which contrasts well with his grey back. After a short while, he flits down off the wall and vanishes out of sight. A little downriver, a mute swan sits on a nest. Its partner fights the slight current to swim over to us with curiosity and perhaps with the hope of us throwing food out to it. Its plumage as white and fluffy as the seeds of the willow trees that are blown towards us in the breeze.

Mute Swan
Banded Demoiselle
The vegetation growing along the bank provides the perfect place to display to females if your a male banded demoiselle. There were plenty of them fluttering along the edges of the river as if in slow motion. Like blue living jewels with a black band across their wings, they are beautiful creatures to look at. Now and then, they perch on the reed leaves to give me a better look at them. They are simply stunning and they complete this warm, idyllic scene of summer for me. This stretch of the River Wensum is simply charming and magical on this hot sunny day and alive with great wildlife if you know where to look.

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