By Holly Downes
An escape. That is what a walk is for me. During lockdown, it allowed to explore beyond the four walls I was trapped within – to explore the unknown.
Although I live amongst the chaos of London, I am on the periphery of the countryside. In one direction is the disruption of London’s rush hour – a car zooms down the road in the hope to escape the traffic, a person honks their horn hoping it will make the traffic disappear. London at its finest. However, in the other direction is something quite the opposite – an array of fields carpets the landscape and a serene silence hangs in the air.
I begin my walk. I step out the front door, walk down the congested road filled with cars making their own journeys, turn a right, and silence. No more engines. No more traffic. No more noise. I am on my own journey now. Venturing down the cobbled path, high hedges and fields envelop me. I go from a monotonous grey scenery of houses and buildings, to a green, vibrant scene. Every shade of green meets my eye – from the bushes’ emerald leaves to the neon green shoots that fringe the path, the scenery is like a painting. A painting that has come to life.
Being on the cusp of spring, I can sense Nature’s eagerness to flourish. For the fruit to ripen, the flowers to bud, the bees to hunt for nectar. The flower buds conceal its delicate petals that lie beneath, whilst the trees nurture its fruit into prime sweetness. Their growing impatience floats in the air as they wait for the signal – the signal for spring. They hear my footsteps as I walk past them. The branches slightly quiver, the bees turn their heads up, the flowers look up at me – but it is still winter, and they must be patient.
I continue to walk over the overgrown stream and past the horses’ stables whose heads slowly raise at the sound of my steps. I give them a slight pat and carry on, crossing over the train track, up the narrow path and through the opening that holds my escape. Tingey Tops Pond. It sits at the top of the hill and overlooks the green palette. I walk over to the bench, inhale nature’s pure air and devour the scenery in front of me. Willow trees line the pond and softly sway in the wind to the sound of the bird’s distant melodies.
Their branches float on the water’s surface and are now illuminated by the sun’s rays that creep through a gap in the trees. An occasional fish spouts over the pond’s surface, causing ripples and a twig to bounce on the water. A dehydrated bird swoops over the pond, slurps a fresh sip of water, and flies away refreshed. The pond sustains all life – it is the beating heart of nature.
A solitary blossom tree by the pond creates a whirl of confetti in the blowing wind. A small rose blossom swirls above the water, pirouetting and doing backflips as it follows the wind’s commands. My eyes follow its movements – from left to right, up and down, it finally lands on the top of the fence. My eyes begin to focus on what is behind the fence – the silhouettes of afar trees and flocks of birds that dance in the sky. I am now mesmerised by the murmuration of starlings that swoop and glide above the trees.
However, the train that carries London’s workers cuts through the opening in the forest, suddenly snapping me out of my trance. It sharply cuts off the bird’s melodies who quickly fly away, searching for another area to sing. I am no longer consumed by the pond’s serenity, but by the city that creeps behind the trees. It used to be camouflaged, but the buildings now boastfully tower over the trees. I can faintly hear the hum of car engines and the occasional honking of a driver, presumably still stuck in traffic.
This place used to be a therapeutic retreat from the world that hid behind the trees, a world that is now visible from every angle. I now notice the fumes from the newly built hospital and the Shard that protrudes over the skyline. Unlike the pond, its glass windows reflect the sunlight superficially. The city has become arrogant – proud of its reign. I can hear a faint wailing of a bird in the distance, a cry for help perhaps.
With a sigh, I retreat from the pond and walk back to reality. It was worth the temporary escape.
Illustration by Hana Peacefield