He had still to see a ring ouzel for the year and he had twice tried for one this week and been unlucky. There had been three or four seen at Morston, so he went there. It was a long trip but he knew the place and it was easy to get to. He walked down to the quay, past the sign that warns drivers to be careful of the children and the animals, to the National Trust car park. You can get a boat trip to see the seals at the Point from there, twice a day. He had done that, on several occasions. The footpath is part of Peddars Way, a Roman road, or something older. A cool, dry day in the late autumn. His sense of where the value lay in what he had set himself to do in that place meant that he couldn't really care for all of the convenient organization and that made him think that his tastes were fastidious and exacting. Certainly, it was an easy place to get to, but he didn’t want to go there and settle for not very much. And he found the ring ouzels had gone.
He saw another birdwatcher he recognized. A very tall rather fat man of his own age or younger, bearded, baseball cap and sunglasses resting on the peak of the cap. He had been looking for a Radde’s warbler, almost certainly, that had been seen there the day before. Large numbers of Siberian birds had been on the coast this last week. That had gone as well. He didn’t speak to him.
Up on the path he looked over the fields away from the salt marsh. The bright green fields looked empty and hygienic, empty of ring ouzels, although full of themselves. Behind him the path broadened into a swathe of rutted mud where the purslane of the marsh started. Shapeless and shabby mud like a building site, a wreck of a place. The day had already slipped one arm into a coat of austerity and disappointment. He walked on to the west, towards Stiffkey, Warham Greens and Holkham.
The path became difficult in places; where the stream crossed it he couldn't readily see his way through its toils of shallow runnels and gullies without getting his feet wet. He threaded a path until he got to a place where he could proceed if he gave a little leap. He hesitated there, then he jumped the few feet and landed without incident and thought it might have been many years since the last time he had done such a simple child-like thing. A couple on the path behind him turned back.
Several people were walking east, always at least in a couple, and he said hello to all of them. One elderly man with a stiff grey beard like a bottle brush was carrying a red clipboard that probably had a map on it. The man stopped and looked out over the marsh and said to his friend, a woman in colourful clothes, ‘Oh look at that. That’s marvellous.’ Or, perhaps, ‘That’s wonderful.’ Admiration anyway.
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