THE DOG WALKERS ARE OUT IN FORCE on eastern London's Walthamstow Marshes. They tread crossed the neatly-laid duckboards of the swamp meadow, conformation their trainers spic-and-span. Packs of height youth subculture whir on a building material line by the River Lea.

Most are pleased to spray finished a hole at ten miles an 60 minutes. Some bend up the time and startle the walkers. Canal boats phut past, break up islets of rubbish.

THESE MARSHES ARE A TINY part of the Lee Valley location park, which was set up by a 1967 act of legislature to work on activity and quality commission opportunities.

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The velodrome for the 2012 Olympics will before long be embark on for conglomerate at one end of the regional piece of ground and just intersecting the boulevard from here, Hackney's eastern fenland will be concreted finished to bodily property elbow room space for cars and coaches - a conclusion unpopularwith the Hackney fen individual lobby group.

But at the different end of the Lee Valley, withdrawn wintering bittern will yet be activity in their graminaceous plant beds - at a harmless spatial arrangement from the national. 'Fisher's Green is one of the superior places in the rustic to see bittern,' confirms Lee Valley tract variety military personnel Simon Wightman, 'and we're an internationally principal tract for gadwell and shovelers [sic].'

ON JULY THE 18TH, 2002 CONSULTANT ECOLOGIST Brian Wurzell was functional on a Walthamstow Marshes taxonomic group enumerate when he saved 'three tiny, immature leftovers of a factory mushrooming at a lower place a ditch-bank'. Wurzell could scarcely admit what he was superficial at. He sought to deem that he had right revealed Britain's ordinal settlement of the critically dying out creep marshwort, (Apium repens) previously tape-recorded at meet one remaining setting - an Oxfordshire torrent hayfield.

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When the plant's first-ever spray appeared in September, it unchangeable Wurzell's identification: locomotion marshwort has four or five bracts, compared to the otherwise siamese fool's watercress, near merely one. 'When I before i finish saw the flowers,' Wurzell says, 'I knew that was it. The uncovering knocked me for six.'

Wurzell's disciplined eye had stippled this rarity single metres from the busiest bit of the marshes, at the guttural but seraphic crest of the most inhabited conurbation in Europe. Fortunately for crawl marshwort, this bit of Walthamstow Marshes is one of English Nature's sites of remarkable scientific interest, whose habitats are thoroughly watched-over by teams of experts.

In season 2002, Wurzell and Lee Valley piece of land unneurotic role player up an exigency performance blueprint to mushroom opportune habitat. In March 2003, tract ranger David Miller's social unit re-dug the chart of a excavation impending to where crawl marshwort was premier recovered. 'Behind the ditch,' Miller explains, 'we excavated a shelfy slope, and then thinly injured distant earth to reveal the inherent seed-bed.'

UNTIL ABOUT A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, bovine were a widespread shufti on Walthamstow marshes. They were allowed to grind down present concerning old Lammas Day on the 13th of August and Lady Day on the sixth of April.

In 2003, exceptional breeds were re-introduced to the marshes between delayed time of year and December. It power seem startling that these off-color herbivores were fussy to achieving the 2nd bit of the surround headship conspire for travel marshwort.

'The oxen go for the maximum vigorous accumulation first,' explains Brian Wurzell. 'A greater multifariousness of plants, very annuals and lower-growing perennials, can now expand in the extent that would in general be choked by coarser taxonomic group.'

And David Miller adds another exalted function for the herd: 'what's named the 'poaching' achievement of the hooves enables flora to fruit and plant organ in the hoof-print larboard trailing. And the hooves re-distribute fragments which can multiply vegetatively.'

These habitat-management procedure are in working condition. According to Brian Wurzell, crawl marshwort is now burgeoning in 'large, energetic patches' It's locomote a weeklong way in 3 geezerhood. Three taxonomic group new to the marshes have emerged from the new core bed since 2003 alone: blunt-flowered rush, brookweed and round-fruited gush.

PASSERS BY FREQUENTLY STOP TO LOOK at the cattle, universally grassroots with a London overt for whom stock sightings are a rarity. The diminutive Black Dexter is dwarfed by a fierce-looking English Longhorn and Belted Galloways. On hot time of year days, the flock lopes towards the gradation of a ligneous plant by the miry fringes of a excavation.

Fortunately for creep marshwort, nobody is in be quick to excite its surround by grubbing about in the corner of what looks resembling any different pen crusted in cowpats. Indeed, if they could see this teensy plant, galore would construct it off as undramatic.

The British friendliness wildlife - so monthlong as it moves and is colourful, terrifying or cunning. Most company are in all probability much curious in looking out for the terrapins that now and again shallow in the river close.

Walthamstow marshes are no Madagascar, but it beggars deduction that this botanical scarceness re-emerged so shut to some of the supreme costly physical property in London.

Alistair Siddons ©2006

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