Through the Walthamstow Rabbit Hole

March 7, 2013

The Rabbit Hole is at the north corner of Walthamstow marsh, where the reservoirs and railway lines converge at a five foot bridge.

The entrance is a dark letterbox which threatens to collapse with the weight of the world above it. But for those unable to observe this, a triangle sign warns 5’0″ and another helpfully translates this into the metric system: 1.5 metres.

On a slope above the entrance a red sign warns: Stop, Look, Listen, Beware of Trains. Another explains the load gauge for the high voltage overhead power lines. These lines are festooned with little discs, wire loops and orange balls, like lights on the seafront of a decayed British seaside town. A Blackpool Tower pylon looms over the scene.

After walking ancient marshland, where plunge pools lurk within the bog, cows ambush you, and abandoned campfires smoke in the undergrowth, the barrage of health and safety information comes as a shock. These messages demand you look at them, read them, pay heed to the multiple hazards and grizzly outcomes that may befall you.

Crushed, electrocuted, severed, slashed, eviscerated, decapitated – watch out!

If you absolutely must leave the marsh and pass through here, says the unknown sign writer, then you should at least know what you’re getting into: through the rabbit hole lies the engine room of London’s spectacle, where pipes, pumps and humming electricity exchanges are strewn between networks of deadly deep water.

This is a place at the edge of the city, at the brink of life itself, where death is only ever a fence away.

The 5ft bridge is the first warning of the change to come. As in Alice’s Adventure, this Rabbit Hole demands you shrink yourself before your passage.

Inside the bridge, glimmering walls are streaked blue, green and yellow. Sunshine streaks through a gap between the railway lines, creating a luminescent membrane through which travellers pass as if entering into the kingdom of God or the doorway of a Spielbergian space ship.

In the central shaft of light I stand upright, push my head between the two railway lines and laugh into the wheels of the train screaming from Stratford to Tottenham Hale.

That was a tiny fragment-in-progress from my forthcoming book for Influx Press, to be published later this year. I’ll post more news soon. Or sign up to my Marsh News email thing and I’ll make sure you’re first to know!

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