The Graveyard Shift

Would a graveyard in Chingford be your first port of call for a breather from urban life? It’s been done before: as Anne of The Island says, it’s a place where one can get at trees.

2016-08-04 19.21.35On holiday in West Wales, I saw sparrows in ubiquity…a quarrel… in quantities I have not seen for years. I did not realise, until I moved to a house with a practically wildlife-free garden, how much I missed garden birds, their song, and trees! I was spoiled, of course, with Westcott House’s lovely Old Court, but even before that, Batty Towers II looked out onto garden-y areas.

Last week in the graveyard I saw squirrels, gulls, and a large gang of parakeets.2016-08-16 18.59.34 In my garden, I have seen a heron, and been overflown by gulls and crows. I think I saw something bluetit like in a tree two houses away this morning, but that could have been wishful thinking. If I listen really hard early in the morning, I can hear snippets of birdsong over the noise of the A112 & neighbours.

Around me, if I remember to look, I see grass and plants springing up and surviving in unlikely places. I see the cultivated flowerbeds planted along Old Church Street, a defiant antidote to the litter-throwing car-driving population.  2016-08-22 18.40.33A few days ago I saw ducklings and cygnets in part of the ancient forest, at Highams Park lake.

Somehow, I feel sorry for this urban wildlife. I wonder if these birds know the freedom and fresh air of their country cousins. Would their song be sweeter without diesel fumes?  Are the bees I’ve rarely seen exhausted on their search for spaces not filled with neat shrubs, or covered in concrete? It feels wrong that we inflict traffic pollution, noise, litter and interference from unsympathetic humans on our urban wildlife. But, nature is persistent, and tolerant. Plants grow in small, unlikely spaces; birds find food and roosting places.

I’ve put a bird feeder up in my garden. It’s been there a week, and so far has had no visitors. I’m torn between knowing I need to be patient, to give the bird I think I saw next door (and its friends) a chance to find the food, and a sneaking and unpleasant suspicion that I look foolish to my neighbours.

That, however, may just be a metaphor for this life of faith. Sticking with something that needs patience, risking ridicule, waiting to see what happens.

(With thanks to @vivmendham who made me notice birds in the first place)