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Not every soil can bear all things

The politics of preservation

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

Regents Canal Camley Street

Camley Street inlet

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

camley street wildfowl ponds

Camley street ponds

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.


still as a meadow pond

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.


Rushes in the reedbeds

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).


Catch as Cats can...

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


Bold as a Coot!

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.

Related Posts:
Blowing hot, blowing cold

1. Canal and River Trust
2.  The most draconian set of water restrictions ever imposed is now in force across most of the south and east of the country after two dry winters in a row. Threat to canal holidays as drought bites
3. Psalm 138:7
Useful links
LWT: Camley Street Natural Park
walk the 7 miles of  The Regent’s Canal
©Copyright 2012 Laura Thomas.
All rights reserved. Content created by Laura Thomas @PatioPatch

19 comments to The politics of preservation

  • Dear Laura, Thank you for the walk along the canal. My childhood home in the Midlands was near a canal. Back then, seemingly, there were not the dangers that are ever present today, and children were sent outside to play without supervision. We would be gone all day, exploring towpaths and other ‘wonderous’ places. I am blessed to have had those ‘moments to savor’. P. x
    Pam’s English Garden read my post..Soil Testing — Easy and WorthwhileMy Profile

    • ah yes, happy days when children were allowed to take risks before the cotton wool carers stepped in! your memories were the wild days of canals before developers realised the real estate potential

  • Lovely walk. Lovely place. Lovely photos.

    Red-eared terrapins sound fun but the idea of one-legged waterfowl soon puts one off!

    In the normal way of things, I’m not struck on canals. I’m moved more by fast flowing rivers and the sea. But in cities – they are special.
    Lucy Corrander read my post..THE LEAKING TREEMy Profile

  • So sad to see the wild areas being paved over for our ignorance…the regret we may eventually have will be too late…I plant to keep a bit of a wild area…such beauty Laura…thx for sharing
    Donna@Gardens Eye View read my post..The Climate Conscious GardenerMy Profile

  • Thanks for the canal walk. I like canals especially the way they link the countryside to urban areas. Such contrasting scenery on the way and a lot of history.
    easygardener read my post..Wordless Wednesday – Where there is a crack in paving there is….My Profile

  • Thanks for taking us on this walk Laura, so difficult to imagine that this place is close to Kings Cross (I’ve only seen the inside of the station). Sad to see the coot, but I guess even if this place was preserved in a bubble, life would still be a story of survival of the fittest.

  • years ago on a holiday in Scotland someone said the UK should be on a pivot so it could be spun around, if we could do that the south could have our relentless rain and we could enjoy some dry weather,

    never heard of the red terrapin (red terror by the sound of it) people are so careless about disgarding pets,

    many years ago I had a lovely holiday on a canalboat, thanks for your lovely walk and reminder, shame it is all so threatened, always makes me think of the Joni Mitchelle song lyrics ‘…paved over paradise and put up a parking lot…’
    one of the things I love about London is the quite nooks and crannies which the crowds don’t find but nature does, Frances
    Island Threads read my post..daffodils and narcissusMy Profile

    • there is a north-west and south-east divide on drought issues Frances but the pivot might change political watersheds!
      p.s. did developments all begin with the flower children?

  • politically living in Scotland gives 2 headaches with Cameron south of the border and Salmond up here!!!!

    Laura I have no idea if developments started with flower children but many flower children probably grew up to be the developers …. Frances
    Island Threads read my post..daffodils and narcissusMy Profile

  • Uncanny similarity in our current posts! I am so 100% behind you. Progress is essential as long as it’s progress that protects the vulnerable. Well said my friend:~)

  • Such an enjoyable journey Laura. The flower children of 69, a short lived trend which is unlikely to be seen again soon, taking into account the attitude of today.

  • a few of us bloggers are flower children to the end!

  • Like Lucy I am generally a lover of moving water, rivers and seas, but canals are special places. My brother and I used to play by the canal as a child without any thought of danger although perhaps I should have twigged that they could be dangerous when our new dog ran out onto the green surface and disappeared under the water! He surfaced and struggled out. I never fell in.
    elizabethm read my post..Growing childrenMy Profile