Typical April weather with a stiff breeze, intermittent sunshine and scudding clouds transformed the marsh on my last visit there two weeks ago. The sun lifted the palette of soft yellows and greens, highlighting the buds bursting on the bushes and bringing alive the reed beds. Occasional patches of yellow flowers nestled on the beds of the stream and the wind rippled the surface of the water in the pools, the reflected sky turning them a deep blue. The whole place felt scrubbed and fresh and my winter cobwebs were blown away. I came away feeling uplifted.
Whilst pottering around the little creek where the boats are moored I met one of the inhabitants - a man who has been building a houseboat there for about a year. He gave me a bit of background information about the place: officially a boat club, in reality it is a place where men come to tinker with their boat building and renovating projects. He was a local man and had previously worked on the river for years, but had only recently been aware of the existence of the creek.
The boats are in a variety of states - some only worth scrap like the huge barge waiting for a tide high enough to float it and be taken away, and some like the battleship built from scratch. One or two people live there but the majority visit off and on. It has a delightfully dilapidated, ramshackle air but you can easily imagine that the people using it view it as a sort of haven, an escape from work and the chores of everyday life. What will happen to it if and when the theme park gets built is not known but I would hazard a guess that Paramount would prefer to have a neat and tidy sanitised version!