Friday, 15 July 2011

Site #5 Walthamstow Marsh

Bordered to the South by the A104 Lea Bridge Rd, the West by the River Lea the North by Walthamstow Reservoirs and to the East by Lea Bridge Riding Centre the marshes can be a productive part of the patch. Though quite dry compared to the even fairly recent past the marsh can be pretty marshy in the winter but numerous routes remain walkable throughout the year.

Around the Ice Skating Centre are a few Birches and taller Trees which have held Redpolls and Spotted Flycatchers over the years, though neither are very regular. The first open space just to the North is actually part of Leyton marsh, it used to host the occasional funfair and circus but they seem to have moved across the Lea to Hackney in recent years. This mown grass field has little of interest but the edges are now left a bit overgrown and can hold Meadow Pipits in the Winter. The scrubby Eastern edge is good for all the locally breeding Warblers.

Beyond a line of tall Trees lays the ‘Bomb Crater Field’ landing site of a World War II V2 rocket, the actual crater is now a Reed filled pond with occasional Reed Buntings in the Summer and even more occasional Stonechats in the Winter. The field itself often contains the Walthamstow Cows and is very tussocky and wet. In Winter there are often Snipe and Meadow Pipits in good numbers but they can be impossible to see without walking through, there are gates at both ends. I have never had any problems with the Cows but best to give them a bit of space. I once flushed a Jack Snipe and I suspect they are fairly regular if you can find them. In the early Autumn Whinchats usually pass through.

There is a wooden boardwalk to the North of the field and to the North of that is another scrubby area which is good for Reed and Sedge Warblers, and this year a Grasshopper Warbler. The large Grassy field at the end of the boardwalk will one day hold a Richard’s Pipit, which is why I call it the Richard’s Pipit field, all that remains is for that day to come.

The next section of marsh is the other side of the railway line. There is access at the East and West sides of the marsh by going under the arches. One of these arches was the workshop of A.V.Roe who built and flew the first British plane right here in 1909, there is a blue plaque commemorating the event. Just under the railway line is a cut-off section of the marsh called the triangle, it is heavily overgrown nowadays and probably does not have much of interest but once held a Dartford Warbler, the only thing to be found there now are lurking men, it is not checked very often.

The next section of the marsh contains a dry Reedbed in one corner and an expanding thicket in the other, between lies a decent bit of marsh which in the Winter can be impassable without boots. A dry footpath follows the Lea for the whole length so it is not necessary to enter it if it looks too wet. Sometimes the Cows are on here. It can be busy on the weekends but mid-week it is fairly quiet. Good birds of the past include Corncrake, Sub-alpine Warbler and another Dartford Warbler. The thicket sometimes has Woodcock in the Winter and Chiffchaff , including a ‘siberian’ one year. I have seen Treecreeper and Marsh Tit in there both once and missed Firecrest a few times.

At the Northern end of this part of the marsh is the Marina and the Coppermill stream which borders the Southern edge of the reservoirs, Kingfisher is sometimes seen around here, Cetti’s Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Siskin, Water Rail and even Long-eared Owl have been seen here.

The last part of the marsh can be reached by going under the ‘Cattle Creep’ a low railway bridge in the North-east corner which in turn leads to Coppermill Lane. The track that runs down from the car park takes you through another small field and around the back of the filter beds. If you go up the small bank behind the filter beds you get a reasonable view of the marsh and this can be a good vantage point for a skywatch. Walking South brings you back to the top end of the Riding Centre.

The marsh holds more than just Birds with resident Water Vole and Weasel amongst the Mammals, and a small selection of the commoner Dragonflies and Butterflies. It is pretty good for Plants too but someone else will have to tell that tale.

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