I love the city’s ability to hide spots of nature in areas you think you know well.
Tired of dodging the runners on the Thames Path this week, Nora and I were tempted into a slight fork, deeply carpeted with yellow, fallen leaves. It looked like it just led onto the road again. Disappointed and about to turn back, I found myself looking at a metal gate leading to the Leg of Mutton Reservoir, unused for thirty-odd years, and now a nature reserve.
Tucked away beside a road I’ve driven along hundreds of times, it’s a little gem of a place. The low-lying water is still and sheltered, with pontoon-like structures on which stand herons, cormorants and ducks. A single, stately swan swims silently past. Moorhens peck at insects just below the waterline.
Cars drive past invisibly and don’t bother us, masked as they are from view. We pass a couple walking three dogs—it’s not until I leave that I see a sign telling us to keep dogs on leads—but Nora listens when I say no and they are all well-behaved, not chasing birds or going in the water.
We make a circuit, first alongside the road and then on the inside edge of the former reservoir that abuts the Thames Path. The runners keep on running while we walk undisturbed on our side of the fence.
We switch sides as it starts to drizzle again and head back, and all at once the main path looks a lot more inspiring and interesting than it did only twenty minutes earlier.