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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Walking the Lea Valley 10: From Rye House to Ware

Who could have asked for a better day for what was probably our penultimate walk along the Lea Valley? Postponed from the previous month because of torrential rain, this ramble took us from Rye House to Ware under a cornflower blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds.
We’d stopped at Rye House before - it’s a once-splendid moated mansion built in 1443 by Sir Andrew Ogard, and was one of England’s first brick buildings - but a chance to see it in the sun drew us back. More than 50 different types of brick were used in its construction, many apparent on the former gateway.
From there we continued to follow the Lea/ Lee (there seems to be no definitive spelling), pausing to watch mother birds supervising their fast-growing chicks as they foraged for food.
There are quite a few houseboats moored along this stretch of the waterway, their decoration ranging from traditional to quirky.
I hadn’t realised Stanstead had a lock as well as an airport, but it looked to be as busy as the nearby runway.
One of the boats passing through was heading for Devizes, but expecting the journey to take at least eight weeks – slow travel at its best.
A short detour to Amwell Nature Reserve was rewarded by the sight of hundreds of birds, including a cormorant. The banks were rich with wildflowers.
There were more flowers, too, when we arrived at the historic town of Ware, which we hope to explore on our next walk. “Ware in Bloom” the signs proclaimed proudly. More of the area’s delights were highlighted at the station on a door covered with wildlife scenes. No indication of the artist, but fun to look at while waiting for the train back to London.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Stanmore Country Park - designed by Nature

The last time I visited Stanmore Country Park, there were carpets of bluebells under the trees. At the moment its Wood Farm area is bedecked with interwoven wild flowers and grasses – a stunning carpet that would rival anything in a show garden.
We followed the marked nature trail path up to the higher ground where the trees give way to a meadow with yarrow, vetch and thistles of all colours. 
A touch of drama is added by teasels.
Among the wild flowers beside the paths are hundreds of daisies.
A lovely surprise near the path we followed was the discovery of an almost-hidden pond, the still water reflecting the scudding clouds.
The high point - literally - was the viewing area on the ridge, where a panorama of London stretches before you. A detailed plaque points out landmarks such as Alexandra Palace, the Shard, Canary Wharf and the Gherkin. Even the Heathrow control tower to the west is identified. In the far distance you can just make out Box Hill and the North Downs.
Returning to Stanmore station, there were swathes of delicate flowers underpinned with frothy grasses. And I thought: who needs a garden designer when nature does it so well?