Rumo bounds down the riverbank before tentatively sploshing into the cool water that runs and tumbles over the pebbles and rocks of the river bed. Through the translucent liquid I can see his paws splay out, attempting to find purchase on the slippery, algae-tinged floor. I imagine this is quite hard when you have only a few small leathery pads coupled with clattering claws more designed to grip turf and prey than surf and spray. Nevertheless, he gamefully pushes on, and, in a few moments, is in the heart of the river where the water now laps around his shoulders. Setting his nose down-stream he launches into a half-swimming, half-striding motion, as each stroke of a paw is rudely interrupted by the lack of fluid depth.
Meanwhile, my own feet have made their way out of their socks and shoes and seem now to be encased in blocks of ice, so cold is the water in which I now stand. Quickly, my feet search for respite from the relentless refrigeration, and happen upon a string of sun-bathed river rocks, their warm surfaces like so many tropical islands in an Asian archipelago. I am joined in this Oriental escape by Zoё, and together we survey the scene, feeling already like life has improved quite immeasurably.
Downstream the water bucks and jives over more rugged terrain, creating miniature rapids among which Wagtails dip and dive, their long white and black tail feathers flashing in the sunlight. Above, a metallic shuddering announces the appearance of a cyclist on the bridge that spans from one bank to the other. Distrubed from his riverine researches, Rumo looks up to enquire about this brave and foolhardy adventurer. He had crossed the bridge himself a few days before, both ways in fact, but only after considerable encouragement. Keeping his body low to the ground to counteract the unnerving vibrations he had inched over before finally making a dash at the end for the safety of solid earth. I think he was glad to have overcome the challenge but it’s safe to say he won’t be rushing back to repeat the feat.
To be fair to him, the bridge has probably seen better days. The dark green metal has taken on a bronzey hue with the years of encrusted muck, and its undercarriage is plushly carpeted with mosses and ferns. Below, a metallic pipe of unknown contents follows the path of the bridge and at this moment is hosting a lively little colourful bird, who is engaged in launching itself from the pipe, hovering in mid-air for a few seconds before returning to the same spot. I’m not sure exactly what all of this is in aid of, maybe it’s just to look busy.
Perhaps it was the industriousness of our feathered friend, or else perhaps it was the bone-numbing cold of the glacial stream slowly seeping into our feet and lower legs as we clambered and stumbled from more or less submerged perches, but at some point we decided it was time to go. There were, we supposed, probably other things that needed doing that day, and, unfortunately, we were the ones to do them. So, we collected our suitably soaked pup and all three made our way back to the car, shoes and socks in hand, feeling the rasp and edge of the dry grass we trampled over. Dog deposited in the boot, we chucked our shoes in the back and took up our seats in the front, cool drops of river water slowly snaking down our legs to the rubber mats below. We should do this again, I feel.