We’re into June and the first real heat of the year. After the rains of May, and now this sudden week of sunshine, the world is verdant once more – time to visit the Sanctuary.
It doesn’t disappoint. The path up to the gate is lush and green, the tall grass peppered with buttercups, glorious in the midday sun. Once inside it is the birdsong that catches my attention – a woodpecker’s laugh cuts through the trees, jays and pigeons make themselves known while ducks and moorhens chunter on the water. A pair of coal tits tirelessly feed a hungry fledgling, the conversation between them never-ending and cheerful. Less so the wren that spots me and sounds the alarm.
The pond is fizzing – brilliant blue damselflies battle for airspace with the dragonflies, the water itself a hubbub of water boatmen as myriad gnats skitter stupidly over the surface, tempting opportunist fish with their dance. Flag iris climbs out of the reeds and the joy is infectious. Over on the lake a pair of tiny dabchicks are diving for food, bobbing up, their plumage green with algae. A few yards on and I am in the woods; green alkanet grows in swathes, giant daisies punctuate the blue and reach for the light. The Sanctuary is fecund with life. I come face to face with an extraordinarily beautiful muntjac fawn; it is still young enough for curiosity to overcome the instinct to run – we watch each other before mutually deciding to continue on our respective ways.
There is an irony at play. Coming to the Sanctuary used to mean an escape from the chaos of everyday life; a place where time stood still and where one could step back, pause and take stock. The magical otherness of this place had a restorative effect; it still does – a snatched half hour here can last forever. But now it is the outside world that is standing still, caught up as it is in the ghastly corona-limbo; it is here in the Sanctuary that Mother Earth is quietly carrying on as normal, where the seasons change as they always have done, where the coal tits are rearing their young and where the cycle of life marches on.
The wonderful Michelle Hanson on the subject of fecundity can be found here.