As I looked upon the Old Moor Centre for the first time, I realised I had never seen a real wetland before. My eyes became the recipients of a fantastic scene which consisted of a deep brown lake, surrounded by autumn trees, and filled with small islands crowded with a diverse assortment of birds.
Mute swans moved across the water’s surface with their heads held low, as if they were embarrassed of the regal air usually attached to them and felt unable to live up to such high expectations. The moorhens comically wandered along the lakes shore with their oversized feet and sporadically pecked at the damp layer of mud which sank into the water.
Similarly, the various breeds of duck which occupied the lake dived to the mud at its bottom and evidently these birds, along with the moorhens, were feeding on a rich buffet hidden beneath the lake’s surface.
The ducks I saw were sporting a rich wardrobe of plumage colours, but demonstrated obvious dissatisfaction when they arrived on mass and found everyone around them was wearing the same outfit. Like a busy crossroads during the early hours of the morning, the wetland was host to a forever-changing accumulation of wildlife which made attempting to draw one particular animal anything but easy.
What makes the wetland so interesting is that, a few hundred million years ago, it was the theatre which staged the origin of all life on land. Thus, from the banks of mud which form the barrier between land and sea, the ancestors of our species gradually wallowed onto the shore and, in doing so, set into motion a chain of events which would eventually lead to the invention of the iPod.
For the pessimist like myself, the poetic justice which is that the most self-obsessed species on the planet came from mud is something I can’t help but smile at.
Toward the end of the trip, the auburn sky began to darken and I chose to savour my last few minutes of respite from the urban jungle by watching the black silhouette of each winter bird move across the sky. However, given the stiff breeze which began to redden my flesh till it resembled an unripe plum, I eventually trudged back toward the coach which was waiting to take us home, happy to have finally visited the birthplace of my, semi-aquatic, mud-dwelling ancestors.