The River Lee

Even in the most urban, industrial cities, there are hidden pockets of nature.

Jake Phillips

It really is possible to escape and experience a bit of wilderness in a city. The River Lee is a secret slither of wild in amongst the grey and concrete of the capital. Our writer Danie Couchman, a writer, voice over artist and boater living in London, spent a lazy Sunday afternoon ambling along this delightful waterway in the predictably unpredictable English weather, through Walthamstow Marshes Nature Reserve, along the peaceful path to Springfield Park, past the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum, crossing Stonebridge Lock, and onto the grassy wetlands of Tottenham Marshes and back. Along the way she asked people, what is it about this tucked away stretch that they love?


S2Steve Horne and his dog Scruffy
“I love the River Lee. I used to deliver fuel along here to boaters on my working boat, and I miss it. Everyone’s out and everyone’s happy, which is lovely isn’t it, especially as spring is almost here. No more mud on your boots. It’s a difficult feeling to put into words. I just love it. There are lots of swans here, and a grey heron that stands on the towpath back to the water facing the flats, he cracks me up.”


S2Jess Cantwell
“It’s so quiet here. I love the River Lee, the nature. It’s an amazing place, and great for walking my dogs Guinness and Cash. We’ve just been reunited after being away travelling, so today is a special day. I live aboard, and this has been one of my favourite places to moor.”


Lindsay Segall and Gail Bryson
“This stretch is so social and friendly, and great to row on. I’m a local graphic designer, and Gail is a local textiles designer. We’re part of the rowing club here. You come out of the city, into another world, with amazing skies and sunrises. It’s a lovely thing to be outside, and it’s great for dog walking around the marshes.”


Kamila Wilczura and Atticus McGlinchey
Atticus: “I’ve been here a lot of times with my parents cycling along. It’s nice that this river is here, it’s just a nice place to walk. It’s peaceful, and good that there’s somewhere fairly quiet you can go.”
Kamila: “I’ve walked here many times with my parents, it’s really calm for me. I go to school nearby. It’s really quiet walking along here sometimes. We don’t mind the hail!”


S2Paul Ireson
“I’m not usually on this stretch of the river, I was working on the Thames and Medway yesterday. I volunteer for Waterway Recovery Group restoring waterways throughout Britain. But today I’m helping a lady move her boat. Another boat is coming down the lock, so I’m just opening the gates for them. 20 odd years ago I did lots of canoeing, and have always loved the water, even in rotten weather like this. I don’t mind it.


S2Brian Vickers and David Griffith
Brian: “I like coming to this particular stretch because it’s quiet. You don’t get too many people along here. It’s still nature’s environment, and it also serves a function, bikes use it to get to and from work. I also like the cafe at Stonebridge lock. I remember the horses pulling the working barges down here. As a kid when I’d come here fishing, it used to fascinate me. I’m retired now, and my wife and I sometimes do a bit of foraging here; blackberries, elderflowers for cordial, and wild plums.”
David: “I live in the best place on earth. On one side you’ve got the marshes and the river that my guide dog can have a run around in, on the other side Epping Forest, and I’m still so close to one of the greatest cities on earth. If you gave me the choice of living anywhere, I’d say here. For me personally it’s great because the walking and access is easy.”


Chris Duncan and rabbit Pond
“When I come here, it feels like having that first cold beer of the summer, everything becomes less stressful, slower, easier, friendlier. It’s an escape, I love it. When I first discovered this river, I fell in love, and put in an offer on a boat the next day.”


Gordon James-William Stabbins and George Bryant
Gordon: “I like cycling along the river, seeing all the different people in the community, and love how quiet it is, away from the traffic. The marshes and the greenery are nice. I’m a photography editor, and like taking photos of the mist on the water early in the mornings. I sometimes feed the swans out of the side hatch.”
George : “It’s a peaceful spot to moor near Springfield and Markfield Park, away from the noisy sounds of any main roads. I work as a spacecraft systems engineer, and wanted my own personal project for the weekends. Doing up my boat is my first real grand design. I hope to use what I learn here on my next project. Come in for a cup of coffee.”


S2Meryl Daniels, Adrian Nitsch, and son Jenson Nitsch
Meryl: “Jenson’s really enjoying feeding the ducks for the first time. He’s two. I love the sunrises you see here. I actually cycle to work along this river in the mornings with Jenson on the back. It’s perfect. There’s sometime’s mist coming up from the water, and I just want to stop and take a photo. It’s beautiful.”



Fiona Morton, and her daughters Christine and Debbie.
“I like walking along the river because there’s always something going on. It’s also very peaceful. I like the bulrushes along this bank. I live in Rugby and am down visiting my daughters who don’t live too far from here. It’s very nice. We’re enjoying a Sunday stroll together today.”


Pedra McKenzie and Gaia Grantatello
“We’ve been writing down everything we’ve spotted on the river today. We’ve seen bikes, people, running, juice, puddles, cars, children, seagulls, cake, bugs, tennis, football, pigeon, coots, and a stick. Our favourite thing was the canoes! We actually speak bird and dog language.”


Steve Ruston
“It’s nice that it’s warming up. I live on my 36ft narrowboat, and work as a journalist. This is a nice green bit of waterway. It’s beautiful to be in touch with nature, and yet be so close to London. The park I’m next to is nice. I like the stretched out floating community along it.”


S2Sean OShea
“I’ve been rowing here for 20 years. I used to be Head of Science at the local sixth form. I’m on the Lee every day. I estimate I’ve covered around 32,000 miles on this 2 mile stretch. It’s just you and the water. People ask me why I do it, why I love it so much. And I can’t answer, it’s an indescribable feeling, just a way of life.”