Moments of joy in challenging times

Published on 29 Nov 2021
Carolina Duck

by Margaret Burke

Near where I live in North-West London/South-West Hertfordshire is Rickmansworth Aquadrome at the northern part of the Colne Valley Nature Reserve. It is formed by two lakes and bordered by the river Colne, Stocker’s Lake Nature Reserve and the Grand Union Canal on its way to London. The three lakes are old gravel pits, the gravel having been extracted in the 1920s to build the old Wembley Stadium and the pits filled in again from neighbouring rivers and streams. The area is maintained by the local district council and is landscaped by a series of paved walkways with nature trails, sailing and canoeing for youngsters, wind surfing, water-skiing and picnic areas. It is a God-send to the local population and was never busier than during the pandemic. There is even ‘The Café in the Park’ – which carried on doing take-away refreshments to sustain and comfort us through the dark days of lockdown.

I walked there just before the second lockdown with a friend, on a glorious autumn afternoon. At one stage, we sat and rested a bit and looked out over one of the lakes and at the wildlife. The day was still, the sky duck-egg blue with just occasional white or grey clouds to be seen. They and the trees on the opposite side of the lake were reflected almost perfectly in its slightly ruffled waters. So I tried to capture the image – and here it is.

The three lakes that form the Aquadrome have a thriving wildfowl population. I spent many an afternoon learning about and photographing them and enjoying their antics as, in common with their human counterparts, they went about their daily activities of feeding, courting, squabbling, napping, nest-building and raising their young. One day last autumn I noticed a very smart, colourful photogenic stranger in their midst. A Ranger told us it was a Carolina (or wood) duck, a species native to North America which had likely been blown over the Atlantic during one of the many storms that happened last year. He seemed quite at home amongst all our native breeds of wildfowl - and to be accepted by them. He disappeared over the summer but last week there he was again, still on his own and still looking very much at home. And I thought “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35) – even in the world of wildfowl!

Such were the glimpses of heaven that God sent to comfort and sustain us as we struggled with the challenges of lockdown and, in my case, the exacerbation of a depression-anxiety syndrome I have had for years. He gives us these wonderful moments to remind us of His gift to us of all creation and to give us hope. For when winter comes, can spring be far behind?