Gareth Rees is not the first writer to have obsessed about the Marshes, and it’s a safe bet he won’t be the last.
This, combined with his chosen territory’s proximity to a hive of bumptious artists and scribblers, makes it all the more impressive that he has managed to produce a book of such stand out originality.
Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London was released last month and grew out of Rees’ excellent Marshman Chronicles blog.
As well as Rees’ short fiction and writings it contains rich, unearthly illustrations by Ada Jusic that encapsulate the gunge, junk, mud and downright weirdness that form the substrate of this poisoned, alluvial place.
The Marshes lie on the edge of Hackney and Walthamstow and are centred around the ancient River Lea.
Most people probably associate this land with the Sunday football league, but there is so much more to it than sport.
The Marshes appear on the London A-Z as a rare stretch of green amidst the clog of streets and have a disconcertingly vegetal aspect.
Rees hones in on what he calls the liminal nature of the Marshes and the strange things wandering in a place like this can do to one’s head.
Time – how it can stand still and can be circumvented – is a theme in this book.
Rees has a journalistic nose for interesting detail and an historian’s knack for research, and he has ferretted out affecting stories from the past – from the Marshes’ role as a sheltering place during the Blitz to forgotten sightings of bears and other beasts that have been reported there.
This book is an example of what all psychedelic psychogeography should, but too often sadly fails, to be: readable and entertaining.
Best consumed in small doses while carrying out your own reconnoitering expeditions in Hackney’s swampy borderland.
Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London is published by Influx Press. ISBN: 0957169396. RRP: 8.99