The longest day, and it is hot. A dry baking hot, maybe 33 degrees, and the world is moving slowly. There is no wind down here, although the tops of the trees are moving silently in the breeze. The heat stands still and fills the Sanctuary.
You enter through a discreet gate and down a long path with tall hedges on either side. After a hundred or so yards you reach a second gate, this one padlocked. It takes a bit of fiddling, but very soon you are in the inner sanctum. You are in the Sanctuary. You and nobody else. You are quite alone. I have been coming for six months and I have never seen another soul.
But you aren’t really alone. The hedgerow is alive with wrens learning to fly, feathery bundles tumbling through the undergrowth. Muntjac, easily startled on a normal day, just stroll away in the heat whilst the birds, although hiding in the shade, are loud in their song. Moorhens are calling and I can see a young one on the lake. A blackbird dives out of the bushes in front, sounding the alarm, and is followed by a thrush.
As I follow the path round I catch movement, fleeting glimpses of unidentifiable (to me, at any rate) birds – hints of colour and shape but not enough for me to name them. A bird box is thrumming with bees, large honeybees who have made it their home and then, delightfully, a gang of willow tits rampage through the trees above. Wood pigeons flap through the branches.
It’s too hot today to sit in one of the hides, so I decide to go to the bench that sits at the edge of the lake, in the dappled light of the leafy canopy. It is my favourite bench – there is a small bird that likes to hide in the bushes and call out, “chuchi, chuchi, chuchi!”, which makes me feel welcome. I look out over the lake, the surface alive with dancing damselflies as fluffy tree pollen drifts over. The heat hangs heavy.
There is no sign of the little grebes on the water – normally so shy but a constant presence here in the Sanctuary and I am saddened by their absence. But then there is movement, and I am thrilled when I spot one of the young hiding in the reeds. I get up to leave and return to the world outside.