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Lockdown Letter

In these strange times we have a chance to glimpse our natural world. We realise that over the years we have been overwhelmed by an intrusive world full of noise and pollution. We appear out of harmony with our natural world and yet, I reflect, when I was born over 70 years ago the world seemed a different place where few families owned a car, petrol was rationed and we did a lot of walking even in a big city!

Little did we realise when we moved from Cornwall to Portsmouth, which is one of the most densely populated areas in Europe that a freak pandemic of a remarkably virulent microbe would silence the bustle and transform the world to which we have become accustomed. This event would almost feel like nature fighting back and reminding us of a seemingly lost world which has become overlooked as mankind contrives to spoil what a higher being created. And yet, after all these weeks we can see and hear nature reoccupy our garden. The elusive birds have invaded in increasing numbers and more varieties have visited us – terns, seagulls, pigeons, doves, blue tits, sparrows, goldfinches, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes and, yes, a sparrowhawk and buzzards circle watchfully high above.

We have become accustomed to visits from neighbouring cats and the other night a fox ambled across the lawn and pipistrelles feed on the many insects at dusk encouraged by unseasonably hot and dry weather. Our pond has encouraged a multitude of water snails and frogs and slow worms have colonised our mulched beds.

Whilst walking at nearby Idsworth we came upon a herd of the usually shy roe deer, some thirty or so gently browsing on the edge of a wood supervised by a dominant stag that ushered them into that wood as we got closer.

When we moved here we could only glimpse isolated pockets of countryside amongst housing estates, supermarkets, retails parks and businesses, or so we thought. And yet, without the traffic and noise the ice cap has stopped melting, the oceans are blue again and the air we breathe is miraculously cleaner.

We have to walk everywhere and enforced by “lockdown” we wander along ancient tracks long abandoned and replaced by modern tar macadam roads and now relegated to bridleways and footpaths it leads me to wonder of a long forgotten world in which we can occasionally glimpse a seemingly abandoned ruin signifying a different world in its own ancient splendour.

Is it because, we, in turn, have had to discard the trappings and distractions of our modern world – the aeroplane, car, social gatherings and modern entertainment that we can now discover and experience the natural world which was always there and rekindle old friendships?

How long will it last and can we get back what we have lost?

Steve Driver is a garden volunteer at Gilbert & The Oates Collections