Local Poet Keith Mowatt by Chalk Bridge 2021

The Poem
Our River Lea
by Keith Mowatt

The Lea has been our river
Since the days when we were kids
There was something special about the Lea
As it governed what we did

There was always a sense of adventure
An exciting time for me
A bunch of youngsters out for fun
When we all went ‘over the Lea’

The joy we got from river traffic
Following the barges along the bank
We’d watch cranes unload big tree trunks
Then watch them cut up into planks

If we were very lucky
And politely asked the man in charge
He would sometimes let us hitch a ride
On board his horse drawn barge

The seasons played an important part
In all things we did
Swimming in the summer
And diving off ‘Chalk Bridge’

Groping in the muddy bottom
To see what treasures we could find
It’s surprising what folk throw in the Lea
‘Out of sight, out of mind’

One day we found some metal ingots
While groping around in ‘the drink’
We sold them to the scrapyard
As they turned out to be zinc

We’d never had so much money
You’d had thought we’d won the Pools
The cash we shared didn’t last very long
As we frittered it away like fools

No swimming when when the seasons changed
It’s time for hats and coats
As kids we we still enjoyed the river
As it was time to sail our boats

Most of our models were of course homemade
In various shapes and sizes
Some of our models were destined to fail
But there were one or two surprises

It was considered to be a success
If your boat reached the opposite bank
Some barely got halfway
Then capsized and sank

Never mind, it was all good fun
And experience would show
Next time we’d make a better one
And have another go

I cycled to the Lea a few weeks ago
To the place where we used to swim
Supermarket trolleys, tyres and bikes were being dredged
By the local Waterways team

You certainly could not swim there now
The water looks polluted
Goodness knows what lies on the bottom
Waiting to be uprooted

The water was clean when we were young
And fishing became our sport
The train took us to ‘Rye House’
Where our river meets the ‘Stort’

We fished all stretches of the Lea
With fellow anglers who were keen
All the way up to Hertford
Where it meets the ‘Mimram’, ‘Rib’ and ‘Beane’

We’d shelter under the bridge if it rained
When we fished locally by the ‘Cooks Ferry Inn’
The North Circular Road ran over the top
We didn’t seem to mind the din

If weekend fishing didn’t go as planned
Our disappointment was put to rights
By Freddie Randall and his band
Who played jazz on Saturday nights

Although too young to go inside
We’d stand close to the door
Any enjoyed the music being played
And joined in the shouts for ‘More’

On the land behind the inn
Known locally as the ‘Cooks Ferry Hills’
We took our sledges and toboggans
When we were gripped by winter’s chill

The Lea was generally frozen
In the days when we were kids
With ice so thick you could walk across
As many of my mates did

The ‘Cooks Ferry Inn’ is no longer there
Demolished long ago
The North Circular Road still runs over the Lea
In a layout of new roads

The roads approaching the Lea have changed
As the local roadmaps show
The little used route over ‘Gasworks Hill’
Is now called Leaside Road

Entered from a roundabout
At the junction with Willoughby Lane
Where ‘Jamesons’ made their chocolates
And ‘Solomons’ shoes were made

A road little more than a country lane
Is now Meridian Way
Its now the A1055
And is busy every day

You cross a major junction now
On your journey to the Lea
And pass the land now being cleared
Where the Gasworks used to be

The land by the Lea is being prepared
A gradual clearance can be seen
Along the banks where once we fished
For Gudgeon, Roach and Bream

8000 homes will soon be built
They’re going to build another town
All the woodyards and factory estates have gone
And the offices pulled down

Some serious dredging will have to be done
And the banks will have to be altered
Building will soon begin by the Lea
A new development called ‘Meridian Water’

The new ‘Meridian Water’ station
On the City to Hertford line
Is going to be quite popular
When trains run regularly on time

The station has already opened
And the effects will soon be felt
With commuters into London
When all the new homes are built

The river that we knew and loved
Will soon be changing forever
Let’s hope the new folk look after it
And I hope it brings them pleasure