A wildfowl walk in the Colne Valley
The Colne Valley has some of the most mature gravel pits to be found anywhere in the London area. Combine that with the river itself, the Grand Union Canal and relict watercress beds and you have the recipe for a walk rich in riparian birds. Stands of waterside willows and Alders, reedbeds, scrub and grazing land by the canal lock all add to the habitat diversity, while a series of hides along the southern flank afford good viewing across the water. Wintering wildfowl will be the main attraction, with the main lake attracting substantial flocks of both diving and dabbling ducks, including a good chance of Smew, Goosander and occasionally something rarer, such as a diver or scarce grebe, while scattered reedbeds can harbour Bittern, Cetti’s Warbler and Bearded Tit. At dusk, large gull roosts form on the open waters and Tawny Owls call from ivy-clad trees. This quiet backwater on the outskirts of Rickmansworth was very much a part of my formative years and where I developed a love of nature back in the 1960s, so this walk is something of a personal trip down memory lane. While the commercial watercress beds, with their Water Pipits and Jack Snipes, have long gone, there is still much to enjoy on this river valley odyssey, and who would ever have believed back then that Little Egrets, Ring-necked Parakeets and Red Kites would be a common sight along the Colne Valley?