British Sea Power provided the soundtrack to the weekend, with 'Spring Has Sprung', a beautiful song from their new album, that proved the perfect accompaniment to the first t-shirt-weather day of the year.
It got its first play as the sun started peaking into our back garden while I woke the off-road bikes from their winter slumber. And the joyous refrain “birdsong sings in the atmosphere; spring has sprung out of nothing” kept popping back into my head throughout the day as Liz and I followed the River Lea from our home in Walthamstow down to the Thames at Limehouse, watching as Londoners in all their cosmopolitan glory ventured tentatively outdoors without a scarf and thermals for the first time in 2013.
The proximity of the Walthamstow and Hackney marshes was one of the reasons that we chose to move to E17 twelve years ago, but today there is just so much more of them to enjoy thanks to the investment that has flowed into East London as a result of hosting the Olympics. On Sunday we only managed a visit to the new bird hides in the Waterworks, saying hello to some Tufted Ducks and a very active Little Grebe who seemed to be making an assault on the world record for the largest number of dives in a minute.
Leaving the ducks behind, the canal path led us past the Olympic Stadium through a revived Hackney Wick replete with artist studios, canal-side bars, and a veritable flotilla of live-aboard boaters. The barges peter out a bit past Stratford, but by then you are approaching the distinctive white rooftop hats of Three Mill Island, from where grain was ground to make the famous London gin for two hundred years from the seventeenth century.
Some of this mothers' ruin no doubt made it onto the boats that left for the Empire from Limehouse Basin, and this is where we had to dismount our bikes and scurry through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames, sneaking in a quick peak at the majestically restored Cutty Sark at the other end before heading off to catch the small but informative Thames Barrier visitor centre before it closed.
There 'Spring Has Sprung' was called to test the power of the i-phone speakers again, competing with a lively wind to gain a hearing as we marvelled at the brilliance of engineers who had created such a simple but effective solution to protecting London from a repeat of the Canvey Island floods (subject of another great BSP song), and their foresight in designing for the sea level rise we now face due to climate change. But too soon it was time to get back on the pedals and race the setting sun home, knowing that spring has finally arrived – in east London at least!