The Waking Marsh

Shakespeare once said ‘Get thee to the marshes and fill thy lungs with life’. OK, he didn’t really say that, but I’m sure if the bard had lived in Walthamstow, he would have said something similar. In fact, if Billy Waggledagger had lived here, I bet the marsh would have influenced his work. Juliet’s balcony could have been in Clapton, The Tempest would have been set on the Lea, and the marsh would make a fantastic setting for A Midsummer Nights Dream. Where on earth was I going with this? That’s right, what I’m trying to say is the marsh is a pretty special place, especially at this time of year when it’s all fresh, and lush, and bursting with life.

In an effort to make the most of the sun on Saturday, we went for a wander on the marsh. We walked down Coppermill Lane, past the fresh brambles that curl through the waterworks fences, past the old mill and stream, eventually reaching the cow scrape bridge. Even shorties like me have to duck to get under the low bridge. Temporarily passing in to shade as the sun is blocked by the railway overhead, before emerging back in to the daylight, with the mighty marsh stretched out ahead.

The marsh at this time of year isn’t yet formed, the blackberries haven’t fruited, and the reeds and rush haven’t reached full height. The marsh is taking its time, waking from the cold of winter, preparing for the long summer ahead. Thick green carpets of grass wait to turn in to waist-high meadows. Buttercups nestle on the ground and train their yellow petals on the sun. The dead reeds from last year that stood fast during the winter, are slowly being consumed by new life.

As spring gives way to summer, the marshes change so quickly. The elder flower will soon become berries, the fresh grass will, before long, become dried seed heads bobbing in the breeze. The rich green will gently turn to shades of purple and brown, as the meadow is dried by the sun. The cycle of this magnificent green lung starts here, when the marsh is the full flush of youth, and it’s a pleasure to watch.

I realise I’m verging on the melancholy here, either that or I’m describing the setting of a timotei advert (cue the blonde girl frolicking in a meadow). But aren’t we lucky to have the marshes on our door step? In the grand scheme of things it may only be a postage stamp sized piece of wild, but it’s our piece of wild, and it’s waiting for you just the other side of the low bridge. So, get thee to the marshes and fill thy lungs with life.


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