13 November 2016

A wet day at the reservoirs

On a rainy Sunday in October, a tour of the future wetlands site at the bracingly early hour of 10:00am. The place is lush and green in an autumnal way, dead seed heads and late flowers set against grey skies, everything covered in a film of cold water. We spot a hawk hanging out near the top of an electricity pylon, see abandoned waterways covered with bright green duckweed, trout fishermen casting flies (no floats involved) and an intriguing robotic strainer that collects rubbish and dead leaves out of the water, creaking into action every half hour. The reservoirs are gearing up for opening to the public next year, but activity is low key - the only noticeable change is lots of new reed beds around islands and edges. They grow on mats of coconut fibre and are fenced in to let them get established. There will be a visitor centre in the Victorian pumping station, but there is nothing to see there yet except scaffolding.

One of our tour guides was Silvia Krupinska, artist in residence, who explained a bit about her involvement with the wetlands project, which doubles as her MA Art and Science degree project. Her work is a nicely offbeat take on the natural life going on there. We also heard some vague talk about public art, which I hope doesn't mean well-meaning art installations dotted around the place. Art is good in the right place, but it's not necessarily a good thing to confuse matters by making little art experiences mixed in with nature appreciation.

The reservoirs still have a wild feel, more so than they will when they are inundated with visitors and all that goes with that, the designated routes, the wayfinding signs and safety features, and my pet hate, 'interpretation'. Actually, it will probably be great, but catch it now just in case.

Above: the robotic cleaner dumps floating debris on the bank every half hour.

Above: new reed beds.
Although it's a year until the wetlands open, you can visit any time - pay £1 at the entrance opposite the Ferry Boat Inn.