Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Stort, the Lee and Back into London!

The River Lee had been steadily improving as we crept further out of London but, from our visit back in 2007, we knew that the little River Stort was different again. We had not really done it justice that time, so maybe this was our opportunity to explore a little more slowly. By this time (end of April), Spring was already looking like Summer, as this Brimstone butterfly demonstrates, feeding on the abundant comfrey flowers.

As soon as you turn off into the River Stort, you begin to enter a new world as the river is much narrower than the Lee and seems to burrow off into remote countryside. About a mile upstream, a short walk into Roydon village reveals some beautiful old buildings, including these two houses, both dating from the 1400s and one covered in wisteria.

We moored next to Hunsdon Mead, a local Nature Reserve, and spotted several Small Copper butterflies.

Up to Parndon Mill Lock, and the first of some imaginative plaques – this one 'endorsed' by a Grey Wagtail!

After the bustle of Harlow Town Station, the Stort's charm was re-established almost immediately . . .

 . . . and we were joined by two enthusiastic young helpers near Sawbridgeworth!

Michael and Christine joined us there the next day – AT LAST we had been able to find a time when we were close enough to make a visit practical!

Hopefully Michael's exertions on the locks will not deter them from a repeat visit – soon??

The next day, we travelled upstream to the terminus at Bishop's Stortford. There had once been plans to build a connecting canal to Cambridge from here, which would no doubt have given the River Stort much more commercial traffic – but would it still have had its charm?

Back to Harlow again to meet up with Alan and Barbara. They came and joined us on the Lee when we were here in 2007 – this time they were able to sample the Stort . . .

 . . . and of course we put Alan to work on the locks!

Here's a Grey Wagtail in close-up, spotted near Harlow the same day.

After our very enjoyable dawdling on the Stort, we came back onto the Lee and decided to travel up to Hertford and back before heading back towards London. A pair of swans with their 7 cygnets seemed to be parading past us at Hertford!

Back down near Stanstead Abbots, a good view of a Gadwall drake. A new duck species for us, thanks to spotting one with David and Gwenda . . .

. . . and a Damselfly resting on willow.

One of the comments we often get as we travel around is "Like your garden!" Zindagi's rooftop kitchen garden consists of 12 x 2ft troughs, plus a few other pots and smaller troughs with flowers in. It looks enormous here . . .

 . . . but now you can see the real extent of it, as Zindagi comes down Rammey Marsh Lock near Waltham Cross. That is the M25 in the background – we had come back inside its cordon, heading back into the centre of London again.

At Stonebridge Lock, near Tottenham Marshes, the Lee is still remarkably rural and most of the locks inside the M25 are electrically operated –

pushing buttons on a panel like this is easier than winding paddles and pushing gates!

And so back into London! It was good to see that Lee river barges are being used for work on the Olympic stadium,

before we turned up into the little Hertford Union Canal, taking us to the Regent's Canal with its overcrowded 'visitor' moorings at Victoria Park,

cranes over building developments and generally busy canalside.

We moored at Islington again and became tourists for an afternoon, taking a trip on the Underground, going over the Millennium Bridge and visiting Tate Modern.

Interesting views of St Pauls

and the River.
Adam was in London for a day or two and came with us as we moved up from Islington to Paddington. Jeremy and Laura joined us for lunch but had to 'jump ship' at Camden Locks. Did we tell you they are getting married in October? Looks like we shall soon be chugging back to London again!

Just to give you some idea of how much the blog is running behind real events, we arrived in Paddington on 22nd May – we have quite a bit of catching up to do!