Saltersford Lane and Patterdown
To investigate further the point where the Pudding Brook flows under the railway line
As before we parked at B&Q. It was over two months since the first recce and now the sky was a solid blue. Behind a spiked metal fence the railway embankment rose up clothed in hawthorn and brambles; somewhere in that dense nest of branches and thorns the Pudding Brook disappeared into a tunnel. Perhaps it was accessible from this side. We looked round the back near some hangar-like storage units – hard-edged, scarlet, blue, white metal, colours intense in the strong light – then we came to a dead end: a high mesh security fence protecting shelf units stacked with white plastic sacks full of some unknown substance. Coils of barbed wire had been positioned about a third of the way up the wire walls. There was a door labelled fire exit. Pale pink clematis grew along the top edge of the fence and hung down the sides. There was no way through. We had to continue via the road, so we moved on, passing the old Herman Miller building; no longer bright blue but dusty grey.
We stopped to watch the Pudding Brook flowing under Saltersford Bridge – its banks heavily overgrown with hemlock water dropwort – then carried on up Saltersford Lane and into the field next to the railway line. This time the grass was high; there was wild geranium, vetch, violets, bugle, and amongst the field grasses – brome, sedge, and some fading bluebells. On the bare patch of earth the bramble shoots had not made much progress and there was still room for low growing plants with tiny white flowers to flourish.
To our left was the area next to the embankment which had been formed when the railway line had been built, and dug out again more recently. The late low sun was bright where it shone through the trees; a woodpecker flew across and nearer by a blue tit slipped into a narrow gap in a tree trunk. The primroses were almost gone; there were bluebells now, nettles, wood sedge and in the damper parts – ferns. The large white sheet still hung down from the tree, spreading slightly like a tent and lifting in the breeze. The other plastic sheets and chairs were still there. Nothing had changed amongst the man-made objects. We walked past the rusty van and looked at the pond, now almost dried up, down below.
Then we made our way alongside the hedge, past the huge willows and through soft mud marked with animal foot prints, into which we sank, until we came to the Pudding Brook. We stepped in; it was mainly shallow and soon the banks were reinforced and then there was a small weir. On our left – office buildings, empty now. The brook widened a bit then disappeared under the massive hump of the railway embankment. The opening of the tunnel had straight sides and was rounded at the top with a semi-circle of grey-blue bricks describing the arch. Inside, the brick walls and curved ceiling of the tunnel were a warm pink from the low sun; the water was golden brown. Further in the colours faded but the bright ripples on the water continued to reflect on the darkening walls. We could see the white light at the other end of the tunnel where we had been on the fifth recce. We turned and followed the brook back to Saltersford bridge; the debris in the water was mainly mechanical and included the badge from a Mercedes Benz.