Running, I’m going to do lots of running in 2017. I’ll also go to the gym more, eat less, and spend less time in the pub. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself now, and it’s pretty much what I’ve told myself every January for as long as I can remember. The likelihood of me sticking to any of these New Years Resolutions is slim to non-existent. I mean, in the year that Donald Trump will become president of the United States, pub visits will pretty much be required to take my mind off what is frankly speaking a truly bloody terrifying turn of events. Still, I made a decent start over Christmas & New Year by running a bit more. To mix things up a bit I strayed from my usual routes over the marshes and ventured to the forest and Hollow Ponds. As I stomped around the ponds trying to remember to breath, I was reminded just how beautiful Hollow ponds is.
It’s a funny place, Hollow Ponds. Although it’s part of the forest it is ringed by roads so feels almost cut off, like a piece of the forest has broken free and begun to drift away. It’s one of London’s edge lands, one of those places where tarmac and concrete very suddenly end and the trees take over. Standing on the path that runs between the boat house and Leyton Flats, you can look in one direction and see ancient oaks, gorse and open water. Turn around, and you are faced with the roar of the Whipps Cross Road and the wail of ambulances speeding to the hospital. Two different worlds exist here, the modern and the ancient.
The ponds are like a microcosm of the wider forest. You’ll find mirror calm water gently lapping against gravel shorelines. In some areas the forest is dense and dark, in others the trees give way to sand dune like gravel outcrops which look almost lunar or martian. Leyton Flats, which borders Hollow Ponds, completes the picture with its seemingly endless expanse of grass land, stretching ever in to the distance. Between the ponds and the flats, wooden structures have been put in place for kids to climb on. These structures are weathered and grey, they look almost skeletal, like the ancient remains of some long dead prehistoric beast.
The mood of Hollow Ponds changes dependant on time of year. In the summer when the lake is full of boaters, and the trees are in full leaf, it feels harmless and friendly, it feels controlled. In the winter when the boaters have gone and the leaves have been replaced by frost and ice, the forest becomes something else, unpredictable, different each day, it becomes magical. Sleeping trees look architectural silhouetted against the winter sun. As the frost melts, steam and mist rises from the forest floor, it curls around branches, bends the light as it drifts skywards. In the winter Hollow Ponds changes at a moments notice, dark and threatening one minute, bright and spectacular the next.
Don’t get me wrong, the forest and pond are beautiful in the summer, but it is almost like the trees are frozen in green, unchanging until autumn begins to take its toll on the canopy. For me, Hollow Ponds really comes in to its own when it is slumbering in the cold of Winter. When the water is frozen and the trees are wrapped in frost, Hollow Ponds come to life. For more info, click here.