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Taking a Walk

Regulars | By Patrick Barkham

An evening with the eager beaver-watchers

Dusk is the most magical time, when the world winds down and creatures of the day mix with creatures of the night. Starlings swirl off to their roosts as bats take to the darkening sky. Silence descends, apart from the bark of a dog and the complaint of a faraway cow. It was just such a gentle English evening when I walked along the banks of the River Otter, near the Devon village of Otterton earlier this year. At first glance, this bucolic valley appeared to be a timeless representative of our lowlands: a green patchwork of pasture, the grey gables of a farm, the wind soughing in the sallows. But the English countryside and its residents have a habit of subverting our expectations. The riverbank was decorated with the lurid pink blooms of Himalayan balsam which has comprehensively colonised riverbanks. And the creature nibbling these shoots had brought a...

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