A winter walk in the Marshes

The Waterworks Nature Reserve. Picture: Lea Valley Regional Park Authority

The Waterworks Nature Reserve. Picture: Lea Valley Regional Park Authority - Credit: Lea Valley Regional Park Authority

The Lee Valley is well known for its birdwatching sites, where lucky viewers may catch the glint of a goldeneye or rare members of the heron family, including the elusive bittern.
Although not quite bittern country, I set out for Hackney Marshes and packed the binoculars just in case.
My destination was the WaterWorks nature reserve, though a combination of a poor sense of direction and hunger caused me to take a detour.

Alice Bonifacio, environmental campaigner and nature writer

Alice Bonifacio has been exploring Hackney's outdoor spaces - Credit: Alice Bonifacio

I stopped by the Middlesex Filter Beds, built in 1852 to prevent the devastating spread of cholera. Two years later, physician John Snow famously brought about the closure of the Broad Street water pump in Soho, having established cholera as a waterborne disease.
Walking amongst the filter beds where reeds and rushes now reign, I thought of my bittern stealthily hunting for fish.
The old concrete culvert acts as a walkway into nature, punctuated by cast-iron remnants of its industrial past.
A small socially distanced group were gathered on top of the large central wellhead, pulling crackers and wearing Christmas hats. With the vaccine soon to be distributed throughout the country, I wonder how long it will take for us to recover from our own pandemic.
I leant against the wall of the former reservoir to take lunch, keeping an eye out for wintering birds along the water.
Two jays hopped amongst the trees looking for food: their colourful feathers made excellent dancing baubles in the barren branches.