“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” - John Krakauer, Into the Wild.
The morning air was cool after a night of storms … perfect weather for our adventure. Our destination … the Watermead Country Park in unknown territory at the other end of the county. An hours journey across the city and there it was … completely deserted.
In the background there was the constant noise and hum of the traffic speeding by … but here we were in an oasis of calm on the outskirts of the city … surrounded by acres of trees, wild flowers and lakes … dragonflies, bees and butterflies our only companions.
Isn’t it always the way that you never actually visit places that are right on your doorstep.
Today we were changing that.
We started walking along a footpath and immediately came across a botanists dream … wild flowers in such abundance that I stopped counting the varieties after a few minutes. I was in paradise. Pea vetch … Meadow Cranesbill … Devil’s Bit Scabious … Cornflower … Meadow Vetchling … Evening Primrose … Great Mullein … Ragwort .. Knapweed … Teasel … Welted Thistle … Corn Marigold … Meadowsweet … Hedge Bindweed … Dock … Horseradish … the list goes on.
There were hides situated around small ponds … each one was visited in turn. The first was the Sand Martin Hide. A wall had been built for the Sand Martins to nest in … we watched in awe as the birds flew back and forth to feed their young … they flew at speed with perfect accuracy aiming at the holes where hungry little mouths opened to receive the insect delicacies.
If you look closely you can see three little chicks in one of the holes waiting to be fed.
The next hide was in a woodland clearing where a squirrels antics kept us amused whilst various birds came down to eat the seed left out for them. But we hadn’t reckoned for the next hide which was elevated and gave a panoramic view of a lagoon where Herons stood on one leg waiting to pounce on unsuspecting fish, gulls and wading birds aplenty … horses grazed the short grass at the side of the lagoon … totally unaware of our presence – in the distance you could see the haze over the city as the sun rose higher in the sky.
Initially the park was used as farmland and then used for gravel extraction. In 1989 the park was developed from these disused gravel pits. In 2005 it was designated by English Nature as a local Nature Reserve, this provides the site with further protection from potential development.
To have this gem on the outskirts of a big city is a huge bonus for city folk and country lovers alike – to think we have lived in this county for all these years and never thought to visit before. You can be sure that this will be the first of many more visits.
We have no real wilderness around where we live … but going back to the wild for just a day nourishes the soul and feeds the heart … I am so glad we made the effort to get out of our comfort zone and see nature in the raw.
‘Til next time – stay cool!