St. John’s Antigua- Rain poured in the days leading up to Saturday May 19. As a matter of fact, in the previous week, reportedly over 12 cm (5 inches) of rainfall was recorded in Old Road. It even rained the day before but, by the appointed 7:30 am time on Saturday morning, there was only bright sunshine.
At least 27 committed and eager persons gathered opposite the John Hughes playing field to hike with the EAG into the Body Ponds. We were happy to welcome a community group from Swetes, a couple from Martinique, and a small group from LIME, in addition to other EAG members and friends.
The Body Ponds is a watershed area that sits in the centre of Antigua. Along the way from John Hughes, it includes at least three major dams: Swetes (called Merrymaid by some), Fiennes and Fisher. There is a road that leads from John Hughes all the way to the Body Ponds Nature Park. This park was developed by the EAG through funding from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme. The layout was created by landscape architect Stephen Watt, and his team, and the park was officially opened in 2011.
The area was green with vegetation of all types, from the ‘jumby bead’ vine (Abrus precatorius) to the giant silk cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra), and many other trees and grasses in between. We also passed a few small farms along the way.
Parts of the road/path seem to follow a water course so there was evidence of natural erosion. At two points, there were 30-60 cm- (1-2 feet) deep gouges in the middle of the path that vehicles had obviously squeezed around by driving as close to the side as possible. However, we soon came upon an impassable (by vehicles) 3-metre deep crater, possibly created where water rushing from opposite directions collided (likely over a period of months to years).
Once we arrived at the Body Ponds Nature Park, we followed the cut trail along the edge of Fisher Dam. This trail, which leads through a forested area, is still as peaceful and serene as ever and many paused along the way at the look-out points on the dam’s edge to marvel.
The forest-leg of the trail emerges into a grassland area and this is where things got interesting. This area is populated primarily by fever grass (lemon grass; Cymbopogon citratus). Somewhat regular fires in this grassland stress the few trees there but do not kill the fever grass. These dangerous fires have the potential to enter the forested sections of the Nature Park if they become uncontrollable.
Whether due to natural formations or regular travel by large animals, or both, the grassland is littered with many depressions, some now filled with water. Hence, that part of the hike was an exercise in seeking then hopping from one mound to the other. A few missteps here and there led to one person temporarily losing a shoe as we all meandered as if on a multi-S-shaped course. With regular rains, maintaining this part of the cut trail becomes more challenging so please be careful next time you visit and step carefully.
Half of our group relaxed at the Nature Park for the rest of the morning while the others returned whence we came. The walk was long enough to affect your metabolism but not so arduous to knock you out for the rest of what turned out to be a beautiful day. Be sure to check our website (www.eagantigua.org) or Facebook page for the venue of our next field trip on Sunday, June 24, and plan to join us.