Saturday, 11 February 2012

The secluded valley

The secluded valley is here on the Google map

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From now on you can come back to this map to check out where we have been walking. You will see that there is no road through the valley, which is what makes it secluded. There is a farm track which goes down to Weir cottage at the heart of the valley, but it is just a track.

The railway does go through the valley however. It is one of the prettiest short rail journeys you can take between Charlbury and Oxford on the Cotswold line.

The infrequent trains add a little excitement to the tranquility of the special place.
I don't mind them. What does irritate us is the rather more frequent passage of light aircraft and military helicopters. They make much more noise and are far more intrusive.

Looking at the map does not help with the topology of the landscape.The valley is cut in two by Sturt copse. Easy enough to walk through a wood, you might think. But the wood is on a very steep slope. What makes the valley secluded is that it is surrounded on all sides by these steep wooded slopes.

Once you have walked down the hillsides through the woods for a few minutes you are rewarded by the remarkable peacefulness of the place.

It is the river Evenlode, twisting, turning, meandering, then rushing on, which is the true joy of the landscape.
In the winter you need a bridge to cross it, but in summer you can bathe in the deep parts and walk across in your wellies in the shallow stretches.

The railway is an altogether more problematic barrier. Luckily, the river criss-crosses underneath it so many times that there are plenty of paths under it by the riverside.

This is my favourite bridge. I love how the light shines on the underside in the afternoon sun.

Winter has come to the valley, incisively, if rather belatedly.
The ice has gone now, but the snow has come a second time. This time the sky was bright and the beauty of the landscape is very clear.

I am sharing a couple of shots from a place I call Kingfisher Corner. The river takes a very broad sweep over more than ninety degrees. One day back in the summer I was sitting here on the bank eating my lunch, when stumpy, the kingfisher, came down the river midstream and swerved all the way round the bend and on down the middle of the stream. Needless to say I failed to photograph him or her. Back in the summer and autumn I saw a kingfisher two or three times a week.
I have not seen one since then, and hope they will have survived. There have been no kingfishers to view from the hide at Slimbridge for two years now. I am so glad they seem to be hanging in here on the Evenlode.

Perhaps one day I will build a hide and buy an extender for my lens. Meanwhile I live in hope.

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