Blog: Streamline

A little stream rises somewhere below the northern slopes of the South Downs a mile or so beyond my window, it flows between meadows, then below the old railway embankment and through wet woodland where it can spread its waters wide in the shadow of Alders, their tops purple /red with their own catkins in winter, their roots spreading into the mud and leaf mould between the rhizomes of yellow flag iris. Hear there is a culvert beneath a road where the grating becomes blocked with autumn flotsam, the little stream enjoys the luxury of a slow escape from the flood –spread of the woodland as if enjoying a long slow bathe before slowly seeping away. On its way here after heavy rains it loiters and backs up and is not shy in stretching its width up over the garden of any rural house it might happen to pass or to swirl and push before it fallen logs to add to the blockage. In fact it has enjoyed, over the years, changing and evolving the nature of the woodlands on its way through, eroding banks to wash away bluebells and goat willow and bringing with it seeds of clump forming sedge and the bright pink invasive, sweetly scented Himalayan Balsam, to colonise the wetlands in summer, sneaking some seeds into its pocket to distribute them further downstream to the town pond where they are not welcome.  In spring mallard duck raise their ducklings amongst the sedge below the blue haze of bluebells and grey wagtails flaunt their yellow belly as they mudlark along the banks. In summer the balsam hums with bees, tall grey heron stalk the wetlands and in autumn a kingfisher may be seen flashing along the streamline or the pure white of an egret paddling for fish fry or picking his way through the cowpats along the meadow edge. Whilst in the blue above, above the woodpeckers and nuthatches, the song thrushes and finches, buzzards soar and mew. Having enjoyed this space to spread the stream narrows and bubbles, past factories and bungalows, gurgling around and over discarded concrete and brickwork abandoned with the closure of the railway which crossed the marshy bog land that once divided the road routes leaving the ancient medieval market town, the lower route off along to villages below the downland slopes, the higher off up over the Downs dropping into the Cathedral city and the coast.  After flowing under the ‘new’ road, our stream boarders a now ‘scenic’ pathway skirting between more wet woodland and red brick houses. Here in spring golden marsh marigolds and yellow flag bloom, woodpeckers enjoy the rotting wood foraging provided by old tree stumps and brambles make mounds of arching branches where hidden wrens either scold at you or sing loudly at the pleasure of it all and peacock and gatekeeper butterflies flutter, rest and feed in companionship, the butterfly season having begun early in spring with orange tips and brimstones that patrol the grassy edges where ladies smock flower in April. The red brick houses are fronted by neat gardens and hedges, beech still clothed all winter long in last year’s leaves of rust brown, crisp but spotted with rain damp and still rattling in the breeze.  The beech is host to chirping gangs of house sparrows and dunnocks sit atop the privet performing their unfinished songs, repeating and repeating as if the last verse has been lost to time.  Black privet berries decorating the hedges to be silvered with pearls of winter frost-melt. Gently both path and stream meet the town pond, the water slipping into the depths of the still water where Canada geese stretch their necks and honk, moorhen climb the reeds to reach seeds and tree creepers climb around and around the wrinkly bark of the stately oak supported by their stiff tails. Once at the other side of the pond the stillness and reflections are suddenly replaced by the swirling descent as our stream, refreshed and re-fuelled it leaves the pond again in a rush, squeezing under the road bridge and crashing with a roar down the little weir to go dashing and splashing off along the old wharf to join its bigger brother the West Sussex Rother.  Wherever I walk locally this little stream is with me, if not directly crossing my path it is not far away, we are friends, we have an understanding, we are company, I love this little stream.

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