Easily my favourite nature inspired poem is Thomas Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush (1901) with his final line “Some blessed hope, whereof he knew and I was unaware” evoking the thought that there is some deeper reassuring truth to life, tragically obscured to us in our worldly distractions, yet bursting from a small bird in glorious song.
Hardy’s description of a dull, bleak, winter evening landscape being suddenly and musically illuminated by such a tiny being was repeated for me at 8.30am on a misty October morning. In the stillness and quiet there came from the tangle of willow and reed an emphatic exhortation to shatter my barely conscious routines at the meadows. Suddenly I was fully alive again! And the sounds kept cascading, repeated with short shouting phrases and insistent single notes. The bird wasn’t singing to me or for my benefit but I was only too glad to accept the uplifting of my soul. Amid the bleakest of times that we are surrounded by at present, bombarded with depressing news at every turn, if one allows it in, I was made aware that there is hope. If one allows it in.
My harbinger of hope was a Cetti’s Warbler. They have bred here this year in the tangled low blackthorn we have been laying each winter to encourage nesting warblers and other small birds. Unlike most Warblers they appear to be sedentary instead of migrating south for the winter so we hope to be assailed by their joyful exclamations year round. I choose to ignore the uncomfortable fact that a species typical of the Mediterranean coastal region is now moving northwards through the Atlantic maritime nations due to warming temperatures. The spectre of climate change hangs over my happy experience but for now I’ll take the joy even as I worry about the prospects facing the next generation.
Thankfully, hope can be found in our human experiences too. Sometimes out of nowhere when we receive generosity or support to prove that love still exists outside of the media’s notice or again when we plan and work together painstakingly to bring about the fruit of our labours. Our volunteer work parties continue on Fridays as testimony to the rewards of working together for a common purpose. We have also been blessed through recently organised events at the meadows.
Our bat walk on 27 September drew a crowd of 24. We marvelled, bat detectors rattling and the animals literally in the spotlight, as a Soprano Pipistrelle twisted, turned, soared and dipped just feet below as we stood on the old railway bridge followed by a display of classic low level skimming behaviour on the Big Pond by a Daubenton’s Bat. Our hope lies in more people being thrilled by our wonderful wildlife and wanting to protect it.
Our Source to Sea River Clean-up on 10 October featured members of Sudbury Canoe Club scouring the river for litter. The usual suspects of plastic and glass bottles and assorted balls were in evidence but thankfully the haul was less than last year when we must have collected some very long-standing items including a tyre, bread tray and garden waste carrier. Maybe a spot of powerful magnet fishing may be arranged for next year? I tested the river for phosphate at the same time as the kayaks were out looking for visible debris which revealed that our unseen chemical additions to our river may be even more insidious. Our hope here is that when people see the man-made changes we are inflicting on our rivers and the effects it has on the life therein (and our seas) they will demand change.
Lastly, we hope and pray for the next generation and so are delighted that Great Waldingfield Primary School are bringing Year 1,3 & 5 classes to Foxearth Meadows in November. Let’s hope that their experience and learning on those visits inspires them to understand, love, care for and defend the precious natural world for the generations to come. A chorus of song from a Cetti’s Warbler would enrich the children’s day as it did mine.