The Leyton Marshes, part of the Lea Valley which flows down from the Chiltern Hills all the way through London to disgorge into the Thames near Poplar, is a rare haven for wildlife and tranquility in the great metropolis in which markontour lives. Indeed, the beauty of the Lea Valley’s parks, canal and marshes is the main reason we moved to Walthamstow fifteen years ago. Yet now it is threatened by a badly conceived development put forward by the very authority that was created to protect it. It has to be stopped.
Yesterdsay Ms Markontour and I caused a tail-back on the route down Mynydd Llangyndir, bringing our bikes to a halt in the middle of the road to stand awestruck as a majestic Red Kite circled directly overhead. It was a great display, but it turns out that the kite’s desire to check out all and any movement on the ground was almost its undoing. These massive birds, with their black and white wings and unmistakable orange/red breasts made themselves easy prey for farmers armed with guns, and there was only one breeding female left in Britain in my lifetime.
Yesterday markontour and the crew of the Burton Library Astronomical Survey Team (Marine Division) enjoyed the rare pleasure of following two kingfishers in succession, their electric colours lighting up the afternoon as they bobbed and weaved their way along the banks of the Trent and Mersey canal. Earlier my Dad and I had been going through a box of my sixth form poetry essays in a vain attempt to clear space in my parent’s loft (all that got ditched were a few surplus copies of ‘Funding London Underground’ – a campaign publication I had worked on in the late 1990s). Thus inspired, I spent the afternoon, when not at the tiller, trying to find a poem about my favourite bird.
It’s a wet holiday morning and so I’ve been browsing the bookshelves of our little narrowboat. The first one I picked up, ‘Heritage of Britain’, is shakily inscribed by my late grandma “To Ruth and Rob from Mum, 18.12.86”. But there were too many kings and queens in that volume and so I have settled instead on ‘Exploring Britain: Rivers, Lakes and Canals’. More specifically, today’s story is of the Trent, the river upon which I grew up and along whose adjacent canal markontour now floats.
Yesterday afternoon we had a little gearbox trouble on our narrowboat and were forced into harbour at a local marina. Further disappointment followed when we realised that access to dry land was barred by electronic gates. With the boatyard likely to be observing Sunday closing the following day, a holiday scenario that is only useful for blogging material was unfolding. But then karma intervened.
“It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at”, advised Ian Brown of the Stone Roses. But, according to another Brown – Pete Brown, author of…
British Sea Power provided the soundtrack to the weekend, with ‘Spring Has Sprung’ proving the perfect accompaniment to the first t-shirt-weather day of the year. It got its first play 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.