Up before the alarm. Positive thinking works sometimes. Race along the B2004, bike lights barely picking out the road it's so dark still, and through the pedestrian gate before the car park is unlocked.
Down the promontory. Almost a win, just the one dog walker with headtorch, recognise the dog, recognise the walker, a quick greeting and on.
Still too dark to scope, I hole the bike up behind the bench, and work in tight to the bushes to get out the wind.
Lots in close. Hungry Redshank, Dunlin, Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, Brent Geese. 'Yup, this'll do- but how long have I got?'
Not long. Not long at all.
Bloomin' Countryside Act 1968.
It defined exactly, legally, what a Country Park actually is. They were set up to provide a natural, rural place for all of the public to enjoy, including those who do not necessarily wish to engage with the countryside. It provides everyone with a public open space that has an informal feel for a backdrop for all their 'whatevers' they want to do., as opposed to the more formal municipal parks and gardens in the towns. By necessity, Country Parks sprang up on the edges. In the countryside. In the case of Riverside Country Park, right next to my internationally important estuary. Actually, when you think about it, in the internationally important estuary. The seawall is a man-made end to it, the birds actually prefer 'core areas' including quiet undisturbed surrounding land.
Everyone has a right to go to a Country Park and enjoy it as they see fit (within reason).
A quick check of the watch. Yup, the gates opened five minutes ago, I've only got perhaps five more before...
Sure enough, from the path behind the bushes came a slow thump, thump off the path- which became a much faster as they turned the corner and seemed to realise they were not alone.
Lycra clad, (fluorescent of course), and carrying one of those ergonomically shaped water bottles that seems to be de riguer nowadays. Earphones shutting out the real world. They pulled up abruptly right in front of me (do they not know what a 'scope is? Can they not see what I'm doing?). Arching their back, breathing like they've just broken the four-minute mile, checking the strange contraption on their wrist (I think it tells them whether they're still alive or not).
Then, like a greyhound out the slips, away. (Until round the bushes again. Do they not realise I can hear them slowing up? Or see them walking back down the causeway when they think no-one's about? They'll probably be back in the car in a few minutes and off back home after pushing my birds off. (Through gritted teeth: 'They. Have. Every. Right. To. Be. Here.')
Looking back out, the mudflat had emptied. The Shelduck had shot off when the Redshank early warning system sounded out. The Teal and Wigeon had followed, just in case. And the Dunlin had scattered. The Brent Geese floated off, bemused by it all. (Through gritted teeth: 'They. Have. No. Right. To. Stay. There.')
Countryside Act 1968 vs Ramsar/Natura 2000/SSSI/the full monty. There's only ever one winner when those gates open.
Putting the water bottle on the car roof, the jogger unlocked her car and took out a fleece top. New year, new resolution, this first short jog had been a lot harder than imagined, and she had felt it. She'd pushed herself to get round the end of the causeway, but had had to pull up with a stitch. Tried running again, couldn't, had to walk much of the way back. So now she was cold. Still, it was a start(!) Positive thinking(!). This Park was listed on the Run England website as a good place to come and exercise, and it hadn't been that bad, certainly much better than running the streets.
Still, she had still felt a little creeped out by that old guy hidden up in the bushes at the end though. He'd just stood there, seemingly glaring at her for no apparent reason. What had he been up to? She spotted he'd had something on a tripod, a video camera perhaps? If he'd tried taking any pictures of her, she'd have definitely reported him. People really should feel safe in a Country Park, after all.
She picked the bottle off of the roof and got into the car. By the time she got home now the family would be up. She made a mental note to tell the kids about all those birds that kept flying about. She'd never seen so many before. They might like that. Perhaps she'd bring them one along day.
No, all in all, even with a creep in the bushes, she'd liked the park and felt good for her first attempt at running. Positive thinking- 'If you're set on going back there again, next time you'll make it out and back without stopping.' She laughed out loud as she really had nothing to worry about, from the look of him she knew she could outrun the creepy guy already.
(The latest part of the estuary walks guide, Riverside Country park (west) has just been uploaded.)