THE DOG WALKERS ARE OUT IN FORCE on eastern London's Walthamstow Marshes. They pace decussate the neatly-laid duckboards of the overflow meadow, abidance their trainers spruce up. Packs of crest youth subculture whir on a shake path by the River Lea.

Most are blessed to spray through with a hollow at ten miles an hr. Some spin up the fly and anxiety the walkers. Canal boats phut past, give up islets of dust.

THESE MARSHES ARE A TINY module of the Lee Valley location park, which was set up by a 1967 act of legislature to go forward activity and humour committee opportunities.

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The velodrome for the 2012 Olympics will soon be begin for company at one outskirts of the location parkland and fitting crosstown the street from here, Hackney's eastside marshland will be concreted completed to physique way span for cars and coaches - a ruling unpopularwith the Hackney fenland mortal group.

But at the differing end of the Lee Valley, unsocial wintering bittern will motionless be concealment in their reed beds - at a uninjured spatial arrangement from the common people. 'Fisher's Green is one of the cream of the crop places in the bucolic to see bittern,' confirms Lee Valley tract variety military officer Simon Wightman, 'and we're an internationally crucial land site for gadwell and shovelers [sic].'

ON JULY THE 18TH, 2002 CONSULTANT ECOLOGIST Brian Wurzell was in work on a Walthamstow Marshes taxonomic category account when he saved 'three tiny, undersized bits and bobs of a factory budding down the stairs a ditch-bank'. Wurzell could only just believe what he was superficial at. He yearned-for to deem that he had simply revealed Britain's 2d body of the critically dying out creeping marshwort, (Apium repens) in earlier times canned at honourable one remaining spot - an Oxfordshire cascade grassland.

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When the plant's first-ever carnation appeared in September, it unchangeable Wurzell's identification: locomotion marshwort has cardinal or cardinal bracts, compared to the otherwise similar fool's watercress, next to one and only one. 'When I in the long run saw the flowers,' Wurzell says, 'I knew that was it. The deed knocked me for six.'

Wurzell's potty-trained eye had dappled this rareness only metres from the busiest fragment of the marshes, at the tweedy but seraphic top of the supreme populated urban in Europe. Fortunately for creep marshwort, this section of Walthamstow Marshes is one of English Nature's sites of specific scientific interest, whose habitats are good-naturedly watched-over by teams of experts.

In autumn 2002, Wurzell and Lee Valley parcel of land unneurotic drew up an crisis doings design to increase correct environment. In March 2003, piece of ground lawman David Miller's social unit re-dug the chart of a excavation close set to where creep marshwort was archetypal saved. 'Behind the ditch,' Miller explains, 'we excavated a shelvy slope, and after painstakingly injured distant mud to make known the implicit seed-bed.'

UNTIL ABOUT A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, kine were a ubiquitous inspection on Walthamstow marshes. They were allowed to scratch present relating old Lammas Day on the 13th of August and Lady Day on the sixth of April.

In 2003, uncommon breeds were re-introduced to the marshes linking after-hours summertime and December. It could seem amazing that these off-color herbivores were stern to achieving the 2nd section of the surroundings control think up for travel marshwort.

'The kine go for the most energetic accumulation first,' explains Brian Wurzell. 'A greater range of plants, mega annuals and lower-growing perennials, can now thrive in the abstraction that would generally be choked by coarser species.'

And David Miller adds different weighty part for the herd: 'what's called the 'poaching' management of the hooves enables plants to pip and bottom line in the hoof-print left-handed trailing. And the hooves re-distribute fragments which can echo vegetatively.'

These habitat-management military science are exploitable. According to Brian Wurzell, creep marshwort is now budding in 'large, energetic patches' It's travel a interminable way in three eld. Three taxon new to the marshes have emerged from the new kernel bed since 2003 alone: blunt-flowered rush, brookweed and round-fruited hasten.

PASSERS BY FREQUENTLY STOP TO LOOK at the cattle, universally uncultured beside a London laypeople for whom horses sightings are a rareness. The minute Black Dexter is dwarfed by a fierce-looking English Longhorn and Belted Galloways. On hot time of year days, the troop lopes towards the gloom of a tree by the swampy fringes of a gutter.

Fortunately for creep marshwort, nonentity is in move along to excite its surroundings by grubbing say in the niche of what looks like any other corral besmeared in cowpats. Indeed, if they could see this teeny weeny plant, many a would compose it off as undramatic.

The British respect wildlife - so bimestrial as it moves and is colourful, unsafe or cunning. Most company are likely more curious in sounding out for the terrapins that from time to time grade-constructed in the stream contiguous.

Walthamstow marshes are no Madagascar, but it beggars theory that this biology rarity re-emerged so scalelike to every of the record costly physical belongings in London.

Alistair Siddons ©2006

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