When we think of the “urban environment” we think of it as being largely concrete or steel and if there is some form of countryside or green spaces we often think of them as being perhaps places of future development and definitely not areas that you would expect to find an abundance of wildlife; pre-covid times I perhaps thought the same time but with lockdown and the only option of actually going out to get exercise being limited to “the locality that you live in’’ I happened once to stumble (in a metaphorical sense) across a delightful stretch of woodland that is largely surrounded by the urban environment — yes there is countryside nearby but when you look around you the views lead you towards housing, shopping and retail and something that you would ask the following question “can beauty and wildlife really be found here?” And, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. It was just last week that after a heatwave I had the idea to visit Watnall Woods, a small but perfectly formed stretch of woodland that is perhaps secretive to outsiders and one that due to lockdown is classed as a “lockdown discovery,” and a place of sanctuary — but of course even after the recent heatwave had ended last week the opportunity to revisit this woodland was something that I just had to do. Surrounded on all sides by the urban environment and of course an incoming change of weather I set off along the path from Alma Hill, ahead of me a grey skies but with humidity for company; plus in the distance a view towards Crich Stand (situated above the village of Crich in Derbyshire, a village most famed for being Cardale in Peak Practice) and to the left of Crich Stand, Alport Height and the odd and alien looking wind turbines that sit above Carsington Reservoir. Yet despite the far reaching views, behind me and in front of me, plus to my left and right houses, although the reason as to why I could see that far towards Alport Height and Crich along with the Wind Turbines is largely down to elevation or height. Either way I walked along the uneven pathway that lay ahead of me a short distance until I arrived at what could be described as “a gem of an urban viewpoint.” And it was here that I had to stop for a moment, on the right of me a glorious view towards the glorious Greasley Church, a Church with an interesting and curious history, that remains another photogenic Nottinghamshire delight that remains largely hidden to many people.
And whilst I had taken the above photo of Greasley Church, I turned immediately to the left, and it was here that I captured the following photograph; to the right hand side of me the glorious Greasley Church and to the left hand side of me the urban environment and its sprawl.
Yet after taking this photo — I continued down the uneven pathway that lay ahead, the former old bricks that made up an old road exposed and staring at me, with stories of those who had passed by before and to the left of me the skies becoming somewhat more dramatic, grey and dark; for rain was on the way and the humidity was something else. Despite it being humid at least it was not 30 degrees although with the humidity it felt as if a heatwave was still in force. Ahead of me though the location that I was heading towards, but for now I was looking at the glorious views — but even they had changed with the footpath sloping in a downward direction, when I had to pause yet again and to the left of me a delightful view over the urban landscape mixed with its intricate design of rural farmland and fields, still looking parched from the heatwave but looking dramatic with the sky.
Speaking of beauty and drama after I had taken that photo, I panned to the left yet again, ever so slightly and under a dramatic heavy sky, the local wind-turbine Winston, looked rather photogenic.
Yes wind turbines are decisive and provide a discussion point, but the dramatic sky against the countryside and Winston in the middle of the frame was perfection; and the following phrase could be used to describe it “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” for some people think that landscapes and wind turbines can not exist in perfect harmony, but I believe that they can and the landscape is ever changing, with that we have to accept change to some degree and work with it as well. But what lay ahead now, the footpath towards Watnall Woods, behind me the sound of traffic and ahead of me a sense of peace and serenity, something that seems removed when you consider that an urban area surrounds the woodlands, but one that is possible to find. By now I had got to the end of the footpath with its old exposed road from yesteryear, and now was the last gate, along another path and finally towards the final destination.
Amazing really, behind me the urban environment and yet in front of me; a hidden sanctuary with paths to explore, but it was the wildlife that I had come to see. On the right hand side of me a bench, wooden and perfect for sitting down with a camera, next to that another wooden bench built between two trees, and directly opposite them, a hub for wildlife that is best described as,
“A sort of Piccadilly circus amongst the nature of a woodland surrounded by the urban environment that feels so far removed from what is happening within the fractured world we live in. Escapism is what this place provides and to be able to sit and watch the wildlife is something that everyone should do once in a while.”
By now it was time for me to sit down, I got the tripod out and set up my camera again, here a minimal view of the landscape to the left but in front of me feeders, bird feeders and bowls for the wildlife. However as I sat down, an eeriness fell all around, instead there was no wildlife, at least for now; but the sound of the wind rustling the leaves of the trees and the branches — I had forgotten the urban landscape of metal and concrete/brick that was only a short distance away and instead I waited, and waited. A game of patience to some degree and one that would eventually have one winner and that would be nature.
Before long, nature had won the game of patience and despite it being grey on the outside of the woods and marginally dark within the woods, a certain magic occurred, slowly but shortly the woodlands came alive.
Quite literally the woodlands had come alive, and whilst I had sat here for a good hour or so, just observing the wildlife I had found a certain magic, the bigger birds had not arrived as they were more than likely keeping out of the incoming weather, but I had seen wildlife, wildlife that you would think would exist away from an urban environment; but instead this was wildlife within an urban environment that somehow “felt a world away.” But the urban environment despite feeling a world away was still marginally visible — in the distant I could see the local wind turbine known locally as Winston, and I could just about hear the hum of traffic along the nearby dual carriageway; of course though the urban sprawl was not that far away.
After about an hour of finding “the magic of wildlife amongst an urban environment” it was now time for me to retrace my steps back from the woods; but just as I got up from where I had been sitting enjoying a sense of escapism I noticed something and that was the colours of the trees, they looked autumnal and despite the wind rustling the canopy these trees looked so calm. I paused for a moment and took the following photos.
Then I left the woodlands, the pathway that I had walked down had changed and that was due to the weather, a light drizzle and the humidity was something else; again I noticed on the horizon “Winston.” And, immediately paused, for I had walked a short distance and already I could see a landmark of the urban environment.
The weather by now grey, dull and misty; I had spent an hour in the woodland watching the wildlife and feeling a world away from the world’s troubles and problems — yet walking along the footpath back to where I had set off originally from, something entered the mind and that was questions; just how come that within an urban environment a certain magic can be found — with the artwork of the trees to the wildlife and what it can bring to you; yet the urban environment was only a short distance away now and I contemplated in amazement that even within an area surrounded by bricks, concrete, metal, houses, mortar and retail that a little sanctuary can be found; and perhaps we need more of these areas, instead of getting rid of woodland for development purposes, instead of making wildlife homeless, destroying the houses of the Jay — high in the trees, perhaps we need to keep these heavens of woodlands for those to enjoy and seek sanctuary for years to come; for sometimes all that is needed is a slice of wildlife, a time to think and a time to ignore the worlds troubles; for that is the best medicine in life.