As the mercury soars through the summer months the riverside really ‘fills up’ with people intent on enjoying the fine weather. So for a few weeks there is a considerable amount of extra activity and plenty of rubbish but come September everything quietens down again into a manageable routine.
In the meantime the management work continues. In particular, the cattle have to be rounded up and treated to keep away the annoying hoards of flies that the hot weather encourages and are very irritating for them. At the same time checks are made for New Forest eye which is very contagious and leads to rapid blindness in cattle if left untreated. This disease is spread by the flies as they tend to congregate round the eyes of the cattle.
The two Highlands that crossed the river from Brundon Hall farm have been removed as cattle with a wide spread of horns are incompatible with humans on open access land as was amply demonstrated on a number of occasions when Huwie, Dewie and Lucky were present on the riverside pastures. Of course, the general public response is that such inappropriate behaviour is the fault of the individual and that may indeed be the case. However, once the Trustees had been advised by the Health and Safety Executive to no longer graze large horned cattle on the Common Lands their hand were well and truly tied. Highlands, however, have tough hides and only very good fencing will keep them to their allotted pastures. Further riverbank fencing has been carried out to try to prevent the Highlands from gaining access to the Sudbury Common Lands.
Each year as June gives way to July the Ely Ouse water transfer ceases and literally overnight the river changes from a rather murky looking ‘ox-tail soup’ to crystal clear water which is pumped from up from the chalk aquifer. Suddenly it is possible to see down into the cool depths of the river adorned with gardens of vegetation and alive with small fish fry nearer the surface where the water is sun-warmed.
The invitingly clear and cool waters are a real invitation to people to get into the river in the hot weather but extreme caution should be exercised as an apparently harmless activity can quickly turn to tragedy. The river contains all manner of obstructions brought down on the winter floods and even the thick long stems of water lily and other plants reaching up from the muddy river bottom can lead swimmers into difficulties.
On a final note, it has been wonderful to welcome back the children of St Joseph’s school to the meadows after an absence of several years. The riverside provides a fantastic educational resource with a couple of experienced rangers at absolutely no cost. For some of the children it was the very first time that they had gone out on to the riverside and this demonstrates how lifestyles have utterly changed in just a generation.