News from the Riverside – January 2020:
The weather is probably still the nation’s favourite topic in spite of the many distractions of modern life. There is no doubt that weather events over the past two years have been somewhat extreme although they are very soon forgotten. The drought and heat of 2018 and the very dry spring of 2019 followed by record summer temperatures are but distant memories if remembered at all.
In spite of the dry weather conditions over the past two years we still complain that it is always raining. Since late September 2019, however, that would be a reasonably accurate summary as we have had well in excess of half a year’s rainfall in three months and there were some truly dismal days. Of course, ‘pay-back’ time had to come although we are still officially in drought status.
While it is wonderful to see so many people out enjoying the Sudbury riverside during the winter, the effects of the extraordinary amount of rainfall are not hard to see with increasingly muddy footpaths, particularly at access points where people converge. As it is in no way practical, cost effective or desirable to hard surface every path it is sensible to bear in mind the current conditions and wear appropriate footwear. Alternatively a change to the daily routine to other paths until the riverside grasslands dry out a little would help. January days are often cold, clear and crisp and that the situation is currently improving.
Very much linked with rainfall but omitted from last month’s end of year news roundup is the notable increase in sightings of otters. Barely a week goes by without a report of these charismatic mammals on the Sudbury river and they are clearly doing very well indeed. Until quite recently, however, this was not the case as they were absent from East Anglia and the process of recovery following pesticide poisoning through the 1950s and 60s has been slow. The chemicals responsible were used for arable crop seed dressings and also in sheep dip. Traces of the chemicals were washed into watercourses following heavy rains which contaminated the fish that otters largely rely on. This led to a reduced reproductive ability so that they died out in much of England. A few people may object to their presence, but otters have been a natural part of our native fauna for millennia and we shall just have to get used to enjoying their presence once more.
Adrian Walters, Clerk to the Trustees of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity, Ranger, and Honorary Freeman of Sudbury