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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hook Marsh Nature Walk

"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright." ~Henry David Thoreau

   We spent four lovely, sunny days moored up alone on the shuttering near Waltham Abbey town. Les removed the window film from all the windows, signifying officially that winter was over! We washed all the curtains and upholstery covers and gave our floating home a good spring cleaning. We found it very handy to catch a nearby bus to Tescos to stock up on groceries as well so we enjoyed our first batch of homemade American Lemonade and Barbecue ribs with coleslaw--yep it sure did taste like summer!
   We noticed a preponderance of cyclists on the towpath all along the lower Lee navigation. Once we looked at a map it was evident why: the Olympic velodrome is nearby. 
   After visiting the Abbey gardens and church, and the Lea Valley White Water Centre in the past couple of days, we decided to spend our reaming afternoon on a nature walk across the nearby fields to Hook Marsh Reserve.
    Standing on the footbridge near the gate to the Lea valley White Water Centre, looking back at NB Valerie--the lone boat moored along the towpath.
   I was amazed at the abundance of Comfrey which grows everywhere along the Lea and Stort. This plant signals the ground here is full of minerals which its long, thick tap root sends down to pull up into the stems and leaves.
 Throughout the Hooks Marsh Lake Nature Reserve blinds are discreetly waiting for someone to come along and enjoy the view...
 ...of nesting Mute Swans, Canadian geese, Mallard Ducks, Coots, Moor Hens, Black Cormorants, and Lapwings; Shelducks, Egyptian geese, Ringed Plovers, Sedge Warblers, sparrowhawks, and Grey Herons. Bring your binoculars and perhaps pack a lunch!
   As we go along we spot a newly laid hedge captures our attention. Hedges not only keep some some animal in and others out and mark boundaries; they provide essential habitat for animals which have no place else to live with the encroachment of humans. Hidden within are hedgehogs, birds, newts, rabbits, foxes, and insects beneficial to the woodland environment.  
   Hedge building is an ancient tradition over here, reaching back thousands of years. A slanted cut is made at the base of the main stem which is laid down to the left. A thin strip is left attached to the rooted stump so the laid stems will continue to grow, throwing up new shoots which will grow straight up into the woven sections creating the hedge wall.

   Spring flowers wreathe the feet of trees and bird calls fill the air. We continue on down a shady woodland path and out onto the canal again, crossing a bridge and making our way back toward home. 
   Surprisingly it isn't just the canal that seems deserted up here, but the towpath as well! We wonder where everyone is and then remember it is Wednesday--midweek and most folks are beavering away at work inside a building somewhere, leaving it to the likes of me and Les to enjoy the Lea Valley nature walk on our own.
  On the towpath side of this section of the Lee navigation (the river is spelled Lea and the navigation is spelled Lee to distinguish the two), the lesser River Lea meanders through overgrown woodlands and pocket meadows, Comfrey verges, and Lea Valley Park land.

    We pass leafy glades where the Little Lea splashes and sings over rocks and tree roots on its way. 

    The offside features lush spring growth and the ever present mounds of happy Comfrey which will bloom soon with its bell shaped pinkish-blue flowers. 

   A Grey-lag Goose family swims by, babies peddling their tiny feet like mad under the water. I can just imagine them quacking "Wait mom-dad, slow down! Are we there yet?"

 Just before a bridge we find this tribute to some one's brother/uncle/father named Kevin who died here.
    Behind us stretches a long straight bit of canalized River Lee and a nicely groomed towpath... front of us stretches another long straight section. Striped shade alternates with wide open sunny stretches.

   Les walks ahead checking out the yellow chain basket off to his right which is part of a disc golf course being currently installed. He remembers watching the local Pullman kids play this game at Sunnyside Park with bags full of colored Frisbees which are thrown from a distant point with the hope it will end up in the basket.
    Above a close up of the metal basket and part of the disc golf course at Lea Valley.
    It is an extraordinary spring day with an Easter egg blue sky and sweet smelling flowers adorning the limbs of hawthorn trees.
Aha! We pass the Grey-lag goose nursery on the offside. Three mated pairs are sharing this spot, keeping an eye on each others brood. It's a great place for baby ducklings to access the canal and get back out on the bank again, providing them safety from passing boats.
   Finally we are back near where we started, the foot bridge just up ahead near the White Water Centre, and NB Valerie moored up just beyond. This much needed respite at Waltham Abbey town has restored us body and mind, as well as hopes the remainder of our journey up this navigation will be a pleasant trip worth making.


nb Chance said...

Hi Les and Jaq, passed you today, but not sure if you were still asleep or shopping? sorry we missed you again, hope to catch up with you both soon.

Anonymous said...

Loverly just loverly..
So Did you discover anything of value during your spring cleanning?
Outline on water or soil, there is always some form of tidy and clean all the time so it seems.

The canal is really deserted at this time of the year. May the balance of your journey be ast restul.

Lisa said...

Thank you for such an interesting day out you've shared. I feel like I have walked around just behind you!
Lisa NB What a Lark.

Anonymous said...

What a life ... and you got to the Abbey.
Karen - Pullman

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Doug and James,
We were off shopping and came out to see Tartan Rose moored up nearby. We knew you had breasted up with them and we wondered if we would see you. sorry we did--I had fresh Rhubarb crisp cooling on the sideboard!
Take care,
Jaq and Les

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bryce,
We already knew we had accumulated a lot of stuff over the winter that was shoved away here and there to deal with later. Later is now and we've sorted, sifted and organized all the nooks and crannies for another year!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Lisa,
I'm pleased you feel that way. It's lovely having you mozey along with us vicariously!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen!
WE did indeed make it to the abbey and enjoy a well deserved bit of respite after the long slog up there.
Love to you and Jim,

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs