There was an air of festivity walking along the River Lea

The River Lea

Birds on the River Lea during Lockdown #2 - Credit: Alice Bonifacio

As we find ourselves in the middle of a third national lockdown, the outdoors has never been more welcoming, despite the biting weather.

“There’s a lot of evidence to say that if you get out into the fresh air…particularly by water, that there’s a huge benefit to people’s wellbeing”, claims Dr Philipa Moreton in an interview with the Canal and River Trust.

Following this advice, I set out for the River Lea, made a cut through Markham Park and left the main artery of the A10 behind me.

Two Egyptian geese paddled in the boggy marshland as I approached the river path.

I chastised myself for underestimating winter’s colours: patches of chrome, peach and brilliant white clouds cast against sky blue. I noticed that the water levels are high and worried for the boats, wondered whether they had enough slack in their ropes to prevent them from listing.

Alice Bonifacio, environmental campaigner and nature writer

Alice Bonifacio benefitted from a walk along the River Lea - Credit: Alice Bonifacio


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The winter air distilled the comforting smell of wood-burners puffing out little wisps of smoke into the evening. A family tossed scraps of bread into the river for the birds.

Motionless, a grey heron was turned away from the ruckus, whilst swans, geese and gulls commenced battle.

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There was an air of festivity here. Perhaps it was because there is always movement. I closed my eyes and allowed sound and smell to overwhelm my senses, blotting out any self-consciousness or residual anxiety from staying indoors.

I thought of the river’s source in the Chilterns and how far it travels to bleed into the Thames. A mistle thrush sang its rich and defiant call from the treetops: a sign of early spring.

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