I WAS in a quandary. I am writing a book on a wildlife year on the River Devon, but much of the lower stretch is hard to explore because it is relatively inaccessible by foot, surrounded by farmland where there are few paths, with the river banksides being steep and lush with thick vegetation.

After some thought, the solution suddenly jumped out at me. I needed to take to the water, and as such, I was delighted when Janet Peck of the CR Cats performance canoe club invited me along for a wildlife exploration trip from Alva all the way down to the inner Forth at Cambus where the river spills out into the inner Forth.

Not long after we had set out, a flash of dazzling electric blue whizzed low over the water ahead of us and alighted in a willow – a kingfisher!

We stopped paddling, letting the current draw us forward, but kingfishers are notoriously shy, and this one quickly zipped away and out of sight.

Kingfishers are on the edge of their range in this part of Scotland and are vulnerable to cold winters.

But they seem to be doing well on the Devon at the moment and I have seen them regularly on the river over the past few months.

This part of the River Devon is almost canal-like, with the water being deep and lethargic, which is in stark contrast to the upper part of the river, which is fast flowing and tumbling.

Willows arched over many parts of the water, and one of the most striking elements was the abundance of Himalayan balsam on the banksides.

Himalayan balsam is an introduced species and its tall invasive growth shades out indigenous plants and the die-back of extensive stands over winter can leave riverbanks bare and exposed to erosion.

But despite these unnatural influences on the environment, we spotted plenty of native wildlife on our three hour journey, including grey wagtails, dabchicks, herons, goosanders, moorhens and many mute swans.

As we pulled our canoes out of the water by the weir at Cambus, Janet and I were exhilarated by our trip and amazed at the remoteness of this section of the river where we had hardly seen a soul.

By taking to the water, we had experienced a wonderful wildlife world and lifted the lid on one of Clackmannanshire’s best kept secrets.

The Alva based CR Cats performance canoe club offers a wide variety of training sessions for youngsters. More details at crcats.org