Monday, September 9, 2019

In Search of the Magic Fish

Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago, while I was walking the Capital Ring, I spent a good long time in a wildlife refuge searching for a sculpture called "Rise and Shine Magic Fish," by pottery artist Kate Malone. My Capital Ring map mentioned the sculpture and it sounded intriguing, and I was disappointed when I couldn't find it. I later learned it had been moved to another nearby park in Leyton after a piece of it was stolen.

Yesterday, I decided to go back to Leyton and find those fish in their new(ish) home, the WaterWorks Centre Nature Reserve.

It took two tubes and a train to get there, and I marched confidently into the reserve, certain that I had found the fish's true home. I crossed a bridge over one of the many channels of the River Lea and found myself on a path between fields, forest and a small pasture containing a couple of friendly cows.

I found several of the park's artworks quite easily, like "Jump," a mosaic bench by Norma Vondee (above)...

...and some bright handmade tiles lining the paths of a wildlife garden...

...and a bench featuring a giant carved lizard.

But I could not, could not, find those darn fish! I wandered every path, ventured out on a boardwalk into a forest, and walked out to the center of the filter beds -- which used to be a huge natural filtration system for London's drinking water, and now consists of a series of ponds. The ponds are screened from the path by wooden walls, and visitors have to open little cabinet doors in the walls to peer out into the ponds. (I think this is meant to keep wildlife from being frightened away, but it seems a bit fussy and unnecessary.) I opened a few doors at random and found no fish sculptures.

I began to wonder, have any human beings ever actually seen these fish? Are they so magical they are invisible and/or imaginary?

But no -- I'd seen photos on Flickr. I knew they physically existed.

I walked back to the visitors center and asked a woman behind the counter where I could find the Magic Fish. To my surprise, she directed me back to the location where they used to be, along the Capital Ring. She handed me a clearly outdated map that showed them in that location, too. I told her I was certain they'd been moved from there. "Oh, they never tell us anything!" she said. (I wasn't sure who "they" were. Presumably whoever's in charge at WaterWorks.)

She got someone on the phone who apparently knew the fish had been relocated, and eventually I was directed back to the filter beds and told how I could find them -- go to the middle, turn right and open the second set of little wooden doors overlooking the pond.

I did so, and -- although it turns out a left turn was necessary, not a right -- I finally found "Rise and Shine Magic Fish."

This probably isn't the best time of the year to see them, because the pond is waterless and they're peering up out of a field of dry grass.

But at least I got a sense of what they're supposed to look like.

You can see pictures online of them at a wetter time of year, when their fishiness is more apparent.

Good grief! What an odyssey! Hopefully, if anyone is interested in finding "Rise and Shine Magic Fish" in the future, they'll read this blog post first.


  1. They look fab in the watery photos! You will have to go back later in the year when it has rained a bit !

  2. Great sculptures. Thank you for persisting.

  3. You certainly persevered with finding the fish. A gold star and an elephant stamp for you. But the fish - what can I say? They look like fish out of water or something the fish monger discarded. :(
    No matter, the giant lizard warming itself in the sun by the bench is quite special in my book.

  4. As Alphie said- fish out of water indeed.

  5. The fish are cool, but I LOVE the giant grasshopper!

  6. What is magic about them? I admire your persistence but in the end the fish don't seem magic at all. They are best forgotten fish.

  7. Well, was all the effort worth while?

  8. That was quite a journey to find those fish out of water. I love that giant lizard carving, quite beautiful.

  9. Wow, you went to a lot of work to find those fish and your determination paid off. They look little like fish out of water now but those water shots give the idea of how they should look. Good job!

  10. You are an intrepid and stubborn wildlife detective, Steve. Good work.

  11. I like the fish, they'll look much batter when there is water. You find so many interesting places to go. It's always surprising to me how much open land there is near where you live.

  12. Those fish - wow! I love them, even in the grassy meadow. Maybe even more than in the water, to be honest. I have a good imagination, and the grass is no impediment. Thanks for being persistent in your pursuit.

    I like that lizard, too. I'm going to guess it's a salamander, but what do I know.

  13. I like seeing sculpture in a garden

  14. Frances: I agree -- they look better in an aquatic environment!

    Sabine: They are great. Especially when you consider they're made of pottery.

    Alphie: Yeah, the lizard is pretty great, isn't it? I wish I knew who carved it!

    Ms Moon: Well, the dry environment doesn't help. Literally out of water!

    Bug: I agree -- I love the grasshopper too.

    YP: I think they HAVE been somewhat forgotten, since no one can find them!

    Red: I'm not sure. :/

    Robin: Yeah, I wish I'd thought to wait for a wetter season.

    Sharon: Maybe I'll go back when the pond is full!

    Catalyst: I don't like an unsolved mystery. :)

    Allison: London is very green, and there are strict land-use regulations to protect the open spaces in and around the city.

    Jenny-O: They are impressive. I like the colors. I wish there'd been some water for them, though. And you're probably right about a salamander -- or maybe a newt?

    GZ: Me too!

  15. Congratulations on your persistence on finding these beautiful magic fish. Can't wait to see more photos if you go back there. I also loved that "jump" bench. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.