By the following morning, though the river is moving quite fast, it looks muddy and murky. I remember the clear water in the river in Scotland and think that the amount of silt that the Brue is carrying, though considered normal for this area and this time, is not at all how the river should be. I realise that if my entire experience had been in Somerset then I wouldn’t even notice; it’s a peculiarity of human perception that if changes come about gradually then they don’t register as a threat or as a problem.
What I do notice is that sunrise gets earlier day by day, and that this is speeding up towards equinox. Even on frosty mornings it’s not so cold as it has been, and it warms up more quickly. Starlings I see now only in small, relaxed groups, looking for nearby feeding. Maybe a large formation flies over earlier, before I am up and about, but I’m sure there are less of them now. Spring is coming and it’s time for them to head back north. The river is settling snugly into its bed, much lower now than it has been, and the ground is definitely drying out.
On the equinox itself the sun rises bigger and rounder and more orange than I have ever seen it before. The river is smooth as glass, moving very slowly, and there’s not much cloud. I feel able to sit on the riverbank and watch for a while; it’s no longer so bitingly cold that I need to keep moving, and the stillness with birdsong in the background is inviting. A twig floating slowly downstream is like a gentle visual melody line. When I do get up to walk home, for the first time this year I can feel the warmth of the sun on the side of my face.
Before the end of the month there’s one more storm and a night full of howling wind and lashing rain. The river, that had been settling down to its summer level so comfortably, rises again dramatically – a few more inches and it would have flooded once more. In the river I notice the complexity of the currents: the main movement is in the centre, rough and pouring downstream, carrying sticks and other flotsam with it; at the edges it is slower, and sometimes spinning in circles. A clump of broken foliage on the cusp between the two stops and spins right round before moving on.
A couple of days later the wind has dropped and the mornings are bright and sunny. It’s spring once again. On the last day of March there’s a sharp frost. A heron takes off as I reach the river, loping away over the fields beyond the far bank. The river itself is steaming almost like a kettle, and the pool that has been replenished, a few fields away towards Cow Bridge, is doing the same. In the river, the water level has dropped back to where it was a week or so before; bubbly blobs of phosphate pollution are washing away and clearing. The sun comes out from behind low clouds, very bright and shining; there’s a feeling in spite of the frost that summer is approaching.