I don’t have to walk far from my home before I come across water. Straight lines carved through the land. Some are ancient like the Fossdyke which was built by the Romans and is possibly the oldest the canal in England. Others are newer, built to catch water from the land and drain it away. Known by the un-romantic name, catchwater drains, they are straight and steep banked. They aren’t places that I would naturally seek out but over the past year, they have become familiar.
It can be hard to feel enthusiastic about the winter trudge through the mud on the bank tops of these drains. The cygnets have grown, the swallows have left. Even the moorhens are determined to stay hidden. They disappear into the reeds with their tails flicking. But these waterways still have the ability to stop me in my tracks.
Walking along the bank top one cold afternoon, I glanced down. Beneath me, a metre or two away at the base of the grassy bank, was a grey heron. I hadn’t noticed him until I’d almost walked past. He stood perfectly still, like a plastic decoy by a pond. I froze too, determined that I wasn’t going to be the first to move.
Time stood still as we both stood still. In this moment of stillness, all I was thinking about was the heron and if he would move first. I looked at him, he looked at me. We both waited. Then, the heron lifted one foot, stretched out his toes and took a step forward.