Poem 176 – Riverbank Sketches I

The Cormorant:
He holds his head up high
to look down upon us.
His curled haughty lips
suggest amusement.
I doubt he’s ever glimpsed
his own reflection in
the ripples – unless his smirk
disguises self-denial.

The cormorant’s smile caught my attention as we walked along the Lea yesterday. I’ve grown to love these comical birds, so graceful in the water, yet so clumsy looking in the air or on the bank wings outstretched to dry.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by JJ Harrison licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Poem 175 – Soundscape

The wind’s white noise cannons against my ears
along with percussive rattling of jostling trees.
A distant car alarm melds with an avian
sentry, sounding an urgent, shrill reveille.
The muffled sound of barking blends into
the lapping of the usually languid Lea.
Astride their balance bikes, delighted children
point out serendipitous discoveries.

A blowy day for a lunchtime stroll by the River Lea.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 161 – After the Rain


A Sunday afternoon stroll around the New River, Top Field and Baas Hill Common. Although the sky was blue and the sun was out, the waterlogged paths definitely required boots.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/ko7Tp_LyAt4

Poem 160 – Four Faced

A pool of many personalities.
    Its winter water takes a earthy shade
    Of darkened substance, solid, birds can wade
Upon its surface, under weary trees.
Last month it shivered, sharp, began to freeze
    And whilst the shrieking scarf-wrapped children played,
    Across it’s face an ice-white mask was laid,
Its morgue-like stillness made us ill at ease.
But soon the hope of life will bud and spring,
    The water turn, aping the light’ning skies,
And nests constructed, frisky foul will play.
    Look, summer migrants come on tired wings!
Descend, this paradise their temporary prize,
    For now, its Janus face, a place to stay.
Today, as is often our practice, we went for a stroll around Lea Valley’s lakes. These water filled pits are constantly fluid, their faces changing with the season. Today they were dark and moody, matching their muddy banks. Another sonnet.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 153 – Blank Canvas

This is a liminal place,
Where sky and earth do meet,
And merge in bright harmony.
Autumn’s colours spent,
Erased, left brilliant white,
Perhaps, a new beginning?
A chance to make our mark,
Afresh. Along with spiders,
Who have already traced,
The outline of each edge
In brittle silk, picked out
And sparkling, crystalline.

Yesterday we woke to find Lea Valley submerged in snow. Beautiful and mysterious. On our afternoon walk, at each turn I expected to find Mr Tumnus, but alas he never showed, only the muntjac deer and robins. We did not return, however, disappointed.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 147 – November Walk

Four pm. November walk along
The Lea, the light is fading fast and all
Is dim. Like children’s plasticine the colours
Merge, the palate turns to shades of brown.
The sky blends with the gently lapping waters.
By naked trees who’ve shed, their colours bleed.
The air is mute, its voice is muffled, dull,
Only the Christmas lights dare interject.
From bankside windows, hope defiant flickers.

To end a period of Covid isolation, I took a walk along the River Lea this afternoon. I’ll never get bored of how the same stretch of water changes throughout the year. I didn’t think to take a photo, this one is from the same time last year, towards the river.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 129 – The Door

This hidden paradox
Lies deep within the valley
Forgotten but persisting

How can a door remain
A door without its walls?
But here one stands before me

I wonder if I turned
Its rusty red handle
What vista it would reveal?

A road of yellow bricks?
A land of lingering snow?
An ancient path to follow?

I reach and take the handle
In trembling anticipation
And opening, I step through…

This door can be found in Lea Valley on the route of one of our many local walks. I’d love to know what it was for. The diet of fantasy I grew up on fills the gaps until someone provides a probably more mundane answer…

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 68 – The Classroom Drummer

Remember the noise the ruler made when
You thrummed it on the side of the desk?
That drumming sound that slid upwards as you
Drew the springboard inwards crescendoing?
I swear I heard that as I walked amongst the trees.
I looked around but there was no classroom
Comedian, no scruffy school boy here.
Confused I turned again with searching eyes
But still no culprit was disclosed until
Skyward I lifted my attention, where
A flash of red revealed the avian punk
Headbanging yobbish rhythms on the branch.

Today, my afternoon walk was accompanied by the sound of drumming amongst the trees. I didn’t actually spot the culprit, but I knew who it was.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 57 – Season’s End

All gone! The brilliant greens and vivid blues
Are drained of their vitality as winter
Cuts it’s teeth and autumn fades
Its timorous light barely heats before
Withdrawing into early evening dark
And even our speech seems subdued
Under the laden air that heavily hangs
Until whispering we withdraw home too

The usually colourful Lea Valley suddenly felt dulled on today’s afternoon walk.

© Ben Quant 2021

Poem 40 – From the New River to Top Field

We begin by strolling along the New River, ‘London’s Tap’,
Ponderously supplying the city’s water under hungover skies.
Passing a bridge that goes nowhere reclaimed by ivy,
Dry curled sycamore leaves form a path along the bank,
Protecting boots from the damp clogging clay beneath.
Today the water is dark and heavy, rolling slowly.
We look for our swans to feed but today they are absent,
Only cocky mallards traverse her dulled waters,
Even they seem subdued and stilled.
As we leave our watery guide we pass construction works,
Homes rising like the scattered oak saplings espied,
Emerging from squirrel scattered acorns perhaps.
Indeed other than us, they are the only ones moving,
Fattened, scurrying to prepare for winter hibernation,
Whilst diggers stand stationary and sites are vacant.
Perpendicular to her flow we rise from Lea Valley,
Reaching Top Field whose spectacular wildflower meadows,
Have been mown, leaving damp stalks and pregnant potential.
The dip becomes clear as we look across to the parallel rise beyond.
Departing, a momentarily surprise, a snatch of distant urbanity,
The towers of Canary Wharf winking their warning.
It seems astonishing that our haven is so near.
Leaving their gaze behind we enter Bell Lane’s woods,
A contrasting lightness, a gaiety absent before,
Leaves, sweetcorn and peas, speckling silver birch skies.
Exiting, our path crosses a field where bedraggled horses munch,
And an S shaped brook snakes between its mounds.
Momentarily they lift their necks to consider as we pass.
Back down Church Lane descending into Wormley,
Peace again broken as we return above the thundering A10.
Passing the sports club we transition from pastoral to people,
Navigating between parents’ cars parked on the verge,
Delivering budding footballers as they grasp hand warming coffees.
What views they have missed by arriving cocooned in these cabins!
Finally, the New River again lies at our feet, ready to guide us home.

Most of our daily walks involve the River Lea to the east of us, but sometimes, we take wander by the New River to the west, cut to deliver London’s water.

© Ben Quant 2021