The forecast for Tuesday morning was appalling so I decided not to rush out of bed in the morning. It was a good decision as it was raining heavily when I awoke. This remained the state of play for much of the morning until the rain turned into a heavy (but brief) snow storm. As the storm abated, the skies started to clear and I grabbed my camera and headed towards Cromford Canal. By the time I had negotiated the flooded roads, risked driving through what turned out to be a pretty deep puddle (for puddle, read ford), admired the snowy fields around me and arrived at the High Peak Junction car park, the sun was blazing and it had turned into a stunning afternoon.
Cromford Canal is renowned as one of the best places in the county to see and photograph the elusive water vole. Given the amount of wet stuff that had fallen from the sky in recent weeks, the water level in the canal was pretty high and I did wonder whether any of the burrows would have been washed out. As it was also winter, and therefore the time when water voles are at their least active, I wasn't overly optimistic as I set out.
The first thing I saw on arrival at the canal was a pair of dabchicks (or little grebes as they are properly known). I spent a few minutes photographing them and failing miserably to catch one just as it jumped into a dive. For the record, I have lots of photos of a tail disappearing into the water and of ripples on the surface! After a while, I set off along the canal in search of my primary target.
Missed again...this was as near as I got before they swam off!
It was a glorious day and the Cromford Canal is a beautiful stretch of waterway. I walked for about three miles in the general direction of Ambergate, passing Whatstandwell before turning back. I saw lots of potential water vole burrows, approximately ten dabchicks, too many coot and moorhen to count, a fair few passerines, a solitary squirrel, a few friendly locals, a few friendly local dogs, one other hopeful photographer but alas, no water voles.
A couple of the little grebe shots, a couple of shots of a robin and one of a dunnock that I took during my walk can be found in my Birds - General gallery.
Despite the lack of water vole, it was a thoroughly pleasant way to spend an afternoon and gave me a fair few ideas of where to go and look again in the spring when the furry little critters are likely to be more active and when (hopefully) the water levels will have dropped.
Location tip - there are a few options for parking along the canal. I chose the High Peak Junction car park (pay and display) but there are also car parks at Cromford Wharf (pay and display), Ambergate Train Station (pay and display) or Whatstandwell (not sure if you have to pay at this one). And if, when you have finished along the canal, it is before 6pm, I can highly recommend a visit to the amazing Scarthin Books in Cromford itself. This little gem of a bookshop sells both new and second hand books (all mixed up which can be slightly confusing) as well as a few gifts and cards. It also has a cafe if you are in need of coffee and cake!