Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Lea Valley

Now that the blackberries are starting to bloom, all the hedgerows are coming to life. 

A path leads away from the Lea Bridge Road, winding through thickets that catch tin cans, crisp packets and pieces of paper, weaving its way like a gentle river into Hackney marshes. The traffic noise calms to a slow simmer, and it's as though a large animal has been tamed or grown tired. Magpies cackle in the trees, Blackbirds sing. Bindweed climbs across a bank of nettles throwing up white flowers like tiny porcelain bowls. Bright green parakeets dash between leaves. A tree sends out a covering of seeds that fall upon the footpath and the brambles beside it like a thick layer of cotton wool. If my googling is correct, this is the Black Poplar, or Water Poplar, and said to be the most endangered hardwood tree in the UK. Water Poplars can live up to 200 years. 100 Years ago there was the water works, the filter beds, and pump systems. 200 years ago there were the trees, the animals, and the Lea river moving slowly over the marshes. 

Though the path is concrete and fenced on either side by black iron rails, there is still a sense of civilisation unravelling into wilderness. This is a landscape of birds, and wind, and trees, and tall grass. Only this giant red metal bridge crossing the river, blocking almost all view of it reminds you that the landscape has been shaped by humans. Beyond the bridge wild flowers move in the breeze. The land opens out into a huge field with rows and rows of white goal posts.

The path turns behind a row of Silver Birch to avoid the football pitches. Now the view is small again and the birds return, calling to one another. In the longer grass and in the hedges there are spaces were animals have made their own paths.

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