I have been tramping around Hackney Marshes since I was a kid. In the 1980’s we used to wander down there on a Sunday with my best friend Kate and her family. We’d cover ourselves with facepaint, put on our wellies and throw a ‘Crayon Girl’ bag over our shoulders. We were 7. By the time I got to 9 it was getting more serious and I’d head down there armed with binoculars, bags for random bits and bobs and a log book from The Young Ornithologists Club.
The marshes have never lost their magic. I saw my first ever kingfisher down there – flashing it’s brilliant colors through the reeds just meters away from the huff and scrape of the football Sunday League. That’s what I’ve always loved about Hackney, the wild seems to have permission to creep over and soften it’s edges.
Over the years I’ve been back to the marshes many times, hoping for a swift glimpse of kingfisher but I’ve yet to encounter another of those majestic little birds, although the variety of others I’ve seen has made up for it. On New Year’s Day this year the River Lea was full of teal. As we grumped around dragging our hangovers through the mud and pouring rain it was good to see so many stretching their wings on the opposite river bank. In fact, that was pretty much the only thing that pulled us out of our thick New Year’s Day fog of overindulgence and self-pity
And then there are the wildflowers. One morning I decided to brave the winter mist and head down really early, before even the most dedicated dog walkers. It was actually a bit foolish as I ended up getting lost in the overgrown bramble maze section that backs onto the railway line. In celebration of not getting stuck in a ditch only to be unearthed 10,000 years later, finding my way back and ending up on a raised platform that runs across the boggy section of the marsh, I made a wildflower bouquet. Just after taking this photo a frog hopped past and, realizing it wasn’t alone, crashed through the reeds on the other side making a huge splash that far exceeded it’s tiny body mass. I laughed out loud and thought how cool it would be to 1) hop into reeds with no idea what was on the other side 2) do something that made the massive strange thing I was fearful of chuckle and walk away!