It’s utterly amazing how wildlife adapts and thrives in the city. And It’s a good job too, if I’m to retain my sanity living and working here. We all have our favourite “patches” and they come in many different forms. A graveyard is a green oasis in a sea of grey concrete. A neglected refuge for some of our favourite urban residents.
noun: oasis; plural noun: oases
1. A small fertile or green area in a desert region, usually having a spring or well.
2. Something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from what is usual, annoying, difficult, etc.
My city centre apartment sadly doesn’t have a garden. However less than fifty metres from my front door, is an enormous graveyard. Encompassed on all sides by 9ft of solid granite – I often wonder if passerbys realise it’s there at all.
I imagine the thought of skulking around graveyards is disagreeable to many. But to me the place rings with life far more than it ever does with death. Trees planted long ago on the graves of loved ones, today tower above the grey walls. And wild flowers burst from just about every crack and crevice. Whilst people from the council turn up every so often to cut the grass – it’s a far cry from the perfectly manicured lawns of the city parks. On the whole, the graveyard is abandoned. And the wildlife has thrived.
I like it best in late afternoon, when the sunlight is dappled through the long tendrils of weeping willow. Magpies mock me from high up in the branches of a horse chestnut and oyster catchers probe the ground with their long orange bills. The flowers adorning headstones now are tall fingers of purple willowherb – bees and butterflies the only graveside visitors. Signs of rabbits are everywhere and the chewed feathers of a wood pigeon tell me a fox probably enjoys my patch too.
Some of my local parks are little more than green deserts. Where anything that dares to grow is pruned and clipped to conformity. I’d rather go for a walk in my graveyard any day. I remember the first time I creaked open It’s heavy black gates, feeling like I’d discovered some sort of sanctuary. Suddenly city life was forgotten and I could finally breathe again during the mid-week slog. Being a burial ground and site of historic interest – it’s at least one green space that is hopefully safe. As other much loved wild places come under threat from development, I feel thankful for this miniature nature reserve right on my doorstep.
Urban wildlife watching is so exciting because you discover the unexpected. You see familiar species surviving in unfamiliar ways. Every city has it’s hidden gems, you just need to find them.