I meet up with Stonecot for a walk up the river Lea today. To be fair, this is a landscape that is mostly under water all the time, consisting of a river, a canal, several streams and a series of fishponds. However there were lots of extra pools today too.
The first thing we see when we get to the canal, having missed the cycle track because muggins forgets to say 'turn left' at the salient point, is a Great Crested Grebe. It gives us a dirty look and dives.
You can't win them all. We turn up the canal and start walking. We've chosen this path because it's a nice gravelly non-muddy one. There's plenty of mud and water in evidence elsewhere though.
The canal, which is usually fairly clear, is like the Limpopo: great, grey-green and greasy. The towpath, usually full of cyclists, is almost deserted. You can see some way between the trees and bushes because there is no foliage left. It's stark, almost monochrome and lovely.
The outward journey passes without event, and we're going pretty briskly. This is not because we are heading for a pub - there is a pub at the point where we are due to turn back but for reasons of economy (both financial and calorific) we've brought our sandwiches and drinks. There's a handy bench at the turning point and we sit on it and eat and drink and as we finish I check the time and it's only half past 11 in the morning.
Ho hum. Well, I was hungry. I have a banana with me but decide to save it for later. We set off back along the canal (which is actually a river at this point). There's an alternative path along the field but it's a bit too alternative and I have promised to keep us out of mud today. After half a mile or so we turn off to pick up the cycle route back, just for variety. This is either someone's front garden or a space in the trailer park, not sure. It's not usually a pond.
We come to a fork and I get out the map and pore sagely over it, finally concluding with 'Well, don't ask ME, there are tracks all over the place!'
You can rely on me, you know.
We take the left fork because the right fork goes along the railway and as it's the main line to Stansted airport it's a bit noisy. We wander along and Stonecot is telling me about her Fitbit and she reveals it is attached to her underpinnings as she puts it on first so she doesn't forget it, and I say 'I'm putting THAT in the blog.' And so I have.
We even find some shrooms:
And a hole that's too big for a rabbit. Badger? Fox? not sure.
Anyway, there we are on what turns out to be the road less travelled, except by anglers. There are always a few of these about and we've seen one or two, but our nice wide path leads to a car park that is full of cars and sort of terminates there. We have a choice of two paths, one of which is clearly muddy and the other one tells us it's leading back to the canal in 300m. This we take. After about 100m, we come to a point where the lake on one side and the pond on the other side have met in the middle.
'Onwards or back?' I ask Stonecot. She graciously waves me on, like royalty. I'm a bit taller than she is so if I go in over my head, she'll know not to follow. It is at least ordinary peaty mud, not clay. I pick my way across, getting ready to scream and panic if the water goes over my boots, let alone my head. Luckily, it doesn't.
Stonecot is too nice to remind me that we were supposed to be avoiding mud today.
We come out on a path near the canal but there's another clear path going back towards the cycle track and we opt for this one. Along a bit and over a few streams, and we're both starting to feel a bit tired. We come to a scattering of strategically placed carrots and speculate over what they are doing there. If you know, please tell us.
I fish in my bag for my mobile to see the time, and withdraw my hand hurriedly.
Something unspeakable and sticky is lurking at the bottom of the bag.
Before I can go into shrieking hysterics, I realise it's the banana I didn't eat earlier. It is, as Stonecot observes, 'past its best'. Indeed, it's so far past its best that I do not want to leave it loose in the bag and squash it into my empty sandwich box to stop it causing further trouble.
I would have taken a photo of it but I don't want you to have nightmares.
Shortly after this, we get back to the station and there's a nice warm train with comfortable seats waiting at the platform.
Good timing, I say.
Fitbit says we did 7.81 miles, so pretty respectable given our age and infirmities (the ankle was grumbling this morning so I told it to shut up and walk and it did).