The tide.

I went back to the rough ground today for the first time since autumn. Very much like last time it was very sunny and bright, with a piercing blue sky, and shades of yellows and browns. The one noticeable absence however was the greenery. Back in the autumn there was still a fair amount of leaf cover and the whole area still felt quite private, but today, there were none to shield the outside world away. It felt very open and exposed.

As well as the world’s eyes creeping in, so too were the sounds of the urban surroundings – a cacophony of emergency service sirens, the hum of the motorway passing overhead nearby, the clang of lorries as their wheels find the weathered potholes on the carriage way. The increased noise, combined with being able to see more cars and people whizzing by, makes me feel, I notice, vulnerable. The rough ground isn’t the hidden sanctuary it once was. A guy wobbles by on a push bike that is far too small for him, weaving through the abandoned shopping trolleys, burned out car, and dumped boiler. People walk by going about their business. It just feels…less private.

But this area is not mine. I don’t own it. Is that what we want from the world? A place just for ourselves and a select group of people that we hand pick? No riff raff. No undesirables. No strangers. By doing that, we cease to grow as people and our horizons begin to shrink. We become set in our ways and spoilt by routine. If this rough space were mine, and only mine, who would join me to fight for it if the need rose up? Nobody would see it like I do because they would never be given the chance. Like a walled secret garden.

In amongst all this, I could actually hear a hive of bird song. Very spring-like. A volery of long tailed tits fluttered overhead from leafless branch to leafless branch, taking me completely by surprise. I would have expected them to be blue tits, or something equally as common. Back in the summer, I noted how quiet it was here for birds. Now it’s coming to life.

I start to make my way back to the pretty much pointless exercise that some would call my career. I note the old pavements I am walking along, revealing, beneath all the growth, the rough ground’s urban heritage. The samsara of ruralisation, urbanisation and then ruralisation. How quickly nature reclaims what man sees as a waste. The decaying fallen branches lying around, releasing their carbon back into the atmosphere shows that everything is a cycle. Birth, death, prosperity, decay. The tide giving and taking. What goes up, comes down. And every dog, always has its day.

Rough ground

I assume most people reading this (if any) work most of the day, most of the week, most of the year. Even so, if you don’t, the same applies. Today’s subject is about making the most of the outdoors and what is around you when it is not the weekend.

For me, I work on the northern edge of a major city. My office window looks out over a packed motorway, a grimy railway line and a busy main road. You can see houses, blocks of flats, Church spires, and trees. There is life out there. But city life is about hustle, bustle, money, short tempers and bleak views. That is, if you don’t actively look for the alternatives. I should point out that this window of mine isn’t mine at all – it’s behind me. Yes, I face the wall more or less. It just means I can’t watch the world go by, or the rain pour down, but it does mean I still get to appreciate the sun rolling in and the shadows it creates across the carpet.

It was earlier this week that I decided to explore a patch of land that I drive past every day. Well hidden, accessible yet still remote in a city. To give you an idea, it sits between a main road to its East, a motorway to its north (which actually goes over it via a flyover) and a river (also beneath the flyover). It is fairly overgrown and I can see signs of previous human habitation in the shape of old pavements and concrete, slowly being reclaimed by mother nature. Nearly every side is hidden from view by trees and shrubs. Behind some of this on the western edge, are houses. This place is not exactly a secret, more of a cut through for people going to the shops, or work.

Once I set foot on the path, I decided to stray from the main path straight away, cutting north-west down a track perhaps created by a fox or badger. I soon found myself amongst trees and very close to the flyover. My first thought was how loud it was, and how I couldn’t see or hear birds, or any sign of life for that matter. So I just stood still.

Seconds later, I heard the hum of a hoverfly. Then more. There were several busying themselves on the blackberry bushes, which still contain flowers.

After standing still for a few minutes, a quick glance at my watch told me it was time to get back to work. While walking back, I heard a brief but sweet chirp of a Great Tit (Parus Major). Not a rare species at all, but welcome in this urban pocket of forgotten greenery.

All of this was only a fifteen minute walk from my desk. If I lived here, I would disregard it. If it was under threat of development, I wouldn’t care either, but as I’m an out-of-towner, it would be a shame to lose it.