Anyone who has travelled by rail from London Liverpool Street to Ipswich and beyond can’t have failed to notice the estuary of the River Stour that opens up wide before you as head north out of Manningtree station on the railway bridge. The estuary is a nature reserve which, according to the RSPB, is one of the best places for wildlife in the UK.
On the southern side of the estuary, less than a mile from Manningtree town centre, you can find a large herd of swans (yes, that is the correct collective noun) that at one time numbered around 1,000 but as the result of the usual suspects (mans destruction of their habitat, etc) is now down to around 250.
With a population that is swollen by many hundreds of geese, ducks and seagulls, this still creates an impressive sight so much so that they’ve become a bit of a local attraction (a tea and burger van is parked permanently nearby to tend to the needy human visitor). Tame would be the wrong word to use for the Swans but they are certainly well used to people wandering in their midst. Although being followed by a group of birds that individually can weigh up to 33 pounds with wing spans of 10 feet is a bit unnerving.
As is the case with most things rural the ‘mock country folk’ (Londoners who have escaped it all for a quieter life out east) are up in arms about the nuisance the swans make of themselves by wandering into the road that hugs the estuary, crapping in their gardens and causing other grave annoyances.
A little ways beyond the swan reserve are the Mistley Towers, the twin towers of a once magnificent 18th century church. The towers – all that now remain of the structure – were added to the church at the behest of wealthy politician Richard Rigby. He wanted something to look at from the windows of his nearby mansion, and also a suitably grand church to act as a backdrop for those arriving in the village of Mistley, a village that he planned, but ultimately failed, to transform into a spar town.
I’m sure he wouldn’t have approved of the swan crap either.