I love comfort food, so I have to take a fast walk every day to keep my weight down. Living in ancient oak woodlands on the border between England and Wales makes this easy.
The trees are knee-deep in bluebells each spring, shady in summer, bright with falling leaves in autumn, and peaceful in winter. Once I’ve delivered my son to the school coach stop each morning, I combine a walk along the River Wye with some thinking time before I head to my office.
There’s always plenty of wildlife to see, although the road between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye runs only yards from the water’s edge
One mild, overcast day last autumn, the Wye was about twice as deep as normal after a weekend of heavy rain. I heard an unusual sound from the direction of the water, so I pushed through the undergrowth to investigate. An otter was whistling in agitation as it ran up and down the far bank.
While it fretted, dark shapes snaked around in the water as other, smaller otters twisted, dived and resurfaced in perpetual motion. At first, I couldn’t make out exactly how many there were, but I counted three tails.
For more than ten minutes I had a grandstand view of the mother otter trying to call her cubs out of the river. When the youngsters finally frolicked away downstream in the direction of the great horseshoe bend of Symonds Yat, Mum followed in their wake
Although I've lived here for years, that was the first time I'd seen otters in the wild. It hasn’t been the last, but as those young otters have grown, they’ve became much more wary. One morning we arrived at the bus stop a bit too early, and frightened a young otter away from a big fish it was eating on the riverside path.
It slipped into the water, but didn’t go far. Once we’d backed off, it popped up again, snatched the fish and vanished back into the river, in less time than it took me to tell you about it!