Jean Dark’s Memory of 2016

Finally, today on the last day of the year, I actually saw the kingfisher of Snakey Path Brooke. I’ve lived here for 2 full years now and I often go walking around Cherry Hinton Hall, a regular circuit that takes in the tree sculpture, the Dawn Redwoods, the towering Scots Pines, the Mill Pond, the little slivers of woodland  up to and along Snakey Path. My friends have all seen the Kingfisher, they say “How come you live so close to the Hall, but have never seen the Kingfishers?”. Well, I have seen all sorts of creatures around, I’ve seen and heard the Green Woodpeckers doomy drumming in the wild overgrown parts and I’ve see the wild honey-bee nest in the forked Ash tree, and I’ve seen the Jay-birds flitting in a pair – in fact they come into my garden too – but I’ve never, til today, seen a Kingfisher. And actually, when I did finally see the Snakey Path Kingfisher, it was on Cherry Hinton Brooke, not Snakey Path at all.


I was crossing the little bridge over Cherry Hinton Brooke, and at first I saw a white Egret wading in the stoney shallows, so I stopped to look. A sudden dog bounded full pelt into the stream and the Egret flew, and that’s when I saw a swift curving shimmer of sky-blue swoop up into the winter branches – The Kingfisher! The little bird paused and perched in a shrub overhanging the water. It stayed perched for a long time, I fixed my eyes on it’s orange breast, not wanting to lose the sight of it in the trees. A family crossed the bridge, grandma, mum and two young boys, so I stopped them and pointed out the Kingfisher  and we all five of us stayed on the hump-backed bridge, staring as the bird serenely perched, sometimes turning it’s head so we caught glimpses of it’s white cheeks in the woodland gloom. We stood there fascinated, chatting quietly, fixated on the little shy bird, for quarter of a hour or more. They’d all seen the Kingfishers before, but usually just a fleeting glance on Snakey Path Brooke. A couple of dogs came tearing out of the wooded area, sniffing and scuffling along the bank, but the Kingfisher stayed put, perched, unperturbed. My mind was glowing with the Kingfisher’s radiant orange breast plumage and the memory of it’s flight, the steak of implausible searing electric blue along it’s back. The family moved on, tracking through the trees on the opposite bank, the boys with a camera edging silently up close to snap a picture of the Kingfisher from across the stream. After a long while the bird took off along Cherry Hinton Brooke towards where it forks off to Snakey Path Brooke and I got a long lingering view , a tiny smear of vivid blueness  heading off between the river banks. I was pretty pleased, well, overjoyed really, what a lucky day I’ve had, what a fabulous end to the year. So much so that I think my enduring memory of 2016 won’t be the horrible feeling that yet another celebrity coffin is sliding into the crematorium’s furnace, but the sparkling vision of a tiny, miraculously blue-backed bird, riding the curving course of Cherry Hinton Brooke, swooping colour through the bare overhanging branches, this year I’ll remember for the magic of the Fisher King.

Jean Dark
31st December 2016