Given the encroaching pincer movement of King’s Cross development, St Pancras canal basin seems to bask in these moments of transience with the unflustered air of one who has seen it all before.
“Canals possess a mysterious, balm-like power. Stealthily, even secretly, they carry the peace of rural England into the heart of frenetic cities” 1
On its south bank, the Regent’s Canal maintains wetlands in the Camley Street Nature park, where the inlet trickles in water to supply the wildfowl ponds and reedbed reserves. The levels here are much lower than usual and now with the drought at critical, British waterways has imposed travel “restrictions” to preserve an estimated 245 miles of its national canal network. 2
Duck, moorhen and coot all nest in these sheltered waters but like the fly in the ointment, alien red-eared terrapins have found their way in too. Released into the waterways as unwanted pets, they eat frogspawn as well as chicks. One-footed waterfowl are a sure sign of their carnivorous presence and whether they should be ‘despatched’ or re-homed when captured is a moot point.
From the wildfowl ponds, water seeps bogside into the surrounding wildflower banks and a shallow, meadow pool. Newts will have returned with the Spring to mate and wrap their eggs in leaf curls though nothing stirred in the shallows to break the millpond stillness here.
Rush, sedge and flag are rejuvenating in the water margins where the frog diaspora makes a seasonal right of return to their original birthing ponds. Occasionally they can be seen lifting their reptilian heads among the snake-like shoots in this eerily beautiful, sculpted waterscape of a reedbed (only slight exaggerated with a photo enhancing filter).
Nature is red in tooth and claw, making the Camley Street stray cat a most contentious and ultimately undesirable fixture amongst the wildlife. Newly hatched coot chicks bob and squeak and abandon themselves to adventure, oblivious to the perils that peer behind the reed screen. It is as well that Coots are vigilant and territorial parents for with such fiercely attentive intervention, this chick lived to count another day.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: 3
The decrepitude and industrial markers of this whole area are being swept aside in an enthusiasm for concrete, glass and steel developments. When populated and pressed in on all sides, this wildlife reserve may have to compromise on its open access policy or perish. Such is the politics of preservation so it is good to savour these moments.