Yesterday was the first day of autumn. For the last few weeks it’s certainly felt as though autumn is approaching. The temperatures have been dropping and the leaves have been turning. But on Sunday I woke to a clear, bright blue sky and it felt as though summer was making one last go of it. A warm sunny day is always an imperative to get out on my bike and that was exactly what I did.
I got out the map, looking for a new cycle route to explore and decided to head in the direction of a large patch of green and blue I’m surprised I’ve never visited before – Colwick Country Park. The parkland is made up largely of three bodies of water and the park sits on the edge of the Trent, so it is really more of a blue space than a green space.
When I arrived at the park it was lunchtime and so I parked my bike up on the banks of the Trent and ate my packed lunch. The sun was high in the sky and the banks of the river were lined with flowers and tall yellow grasses, amongst which blue damselflies hovered. Out on the water white-sailed boats glided down river and tacked up. One word came to mind as I sat there watching the boats sailing by – bucolic.
The boats on the river were bucolic because the bucolic is about more than just nature, it is also about certain ways of interacting with nature. A small village of thatched cottages is bucolic, men in white playing a game of cricket on the village green is bucolic, and boats sailing down a river are bucolic. But at some point a line is crossed and human impressions on the landscape go from being pretty and idyllic to being ugly, and somehow or other we acquire an innate knowledge of where that line is.
Not far from Colwick Country Park is another, very different kind of park – an industrial park. The two sit side by side in the landscape and yet seem like complete opposites. I had to cycle through the industrial park to get to Colwick and I cycled through as quickly as possible because there wasn’t much to see and it felt like a non-place. But Colwick Country Park was once a site of industry – the watery landscape I cycled through exists because of gravel extraction.
I didn’t let that trouble me too much though as I sat by the Trent and watched the boats go by, lost in my fantasy of a pristine relationship between humans and nature. I could have stayed there all day, but I finished up my lunch and carried on, wanting to explore more of the park.
As I cycled round the largest of the three lakes I saw a black swan out on the water. An old lady was feeding the ducks and the black swan was making its way over to her, so I decided to joined her too in order to get a closer look.
The swan was much smaller than a white swan and its wing feathers were ruffled, so that they sat on its back like a Victorian woman’s bustle. It had red-rimmed eyes and its beak was red with pink bands across it, reminding me of a boiled sweet.
Eventually the Canada Geese caught on to the fact that there was free food and splash-landed into the water in droves. They honked loudly, bullying off the other ducks and birds. In response the black swan stretched out its neck and let out a peculiar sound like a fog horn, before swimming off to escape the mob.
I carried on around the largest lake and then wound my way round the two smaller lakes, enjoying the warmth of the day and the bright blue of the water and sky, before heading back home along the canal.
Since Sunday the weather has turned cold and overcast again. As I walked through campus on Monday – now busy again with students – and watched the leaves falling from the trees, I thought of Sunday’s sunshine and sail boats as a final gift from summer, now drifting off to other shores.