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  • Abi Starr

A special place

Our next brief was to write a piece based around a place that is special to us. The notebook featured here is real and I had it with me as I wrote.


I was rather happy with how this turned out, so haven't edited it too much.


A special place

It’s just a notebook. An old, tatty, red notebook. Held together in places with sticky tape and with doodles on the covers. But it is so much more than that. It’s a gateway to my memories of that special place.


A pub garden? Special? No, I’ve not lost my marbles. Let me tell you about it and maybe you’ll understand.


It was in the centre of town. Not an enormous space by any stretch of the imagination, but very private. Flanked by sycamore on three sides, with a cherry tree in the middle (I used to climb the cherry, although I wasn’t very brave and never got far).


It was a mish mash of habitats, lawn, trees, shrubs, leaf litter and more. And this made it an urban hotspot for wildlife. Birds mainly.


We began feeding the birds, up on a mound of earth, under the biggest tree. We started with just two feeders, peanuts and mixed seed. Before long we had six – offering a variety of foods for a range of avian diets.


I also began recording what we saw in a meticulously planned table, in that old, red notebook I’d dug out from under my bed. The first entry was on the 18th November, 2011. I was 14. We saw twelve species that day, including a migrant blackbird from the continent, with lots of white in his plumage.


By the time of the last entry (8th June, 2016: 9 species), we had seen a total of 27 species of bird in the garden. From the dainty, diminutive goldcrest and the eccentric-looking treecreeper to the fierce and powerful sparrowhawk, with an amazing array in between.


It wasn’t just birds, this town centre paradise also played host to bats, mice, rats, foxes and most excitingly, hedgehogs. In the Autumn I would tend to them, removing ticks and ensuring they were a safe weight for hibernation and calling for assistance if they weren’t. Sadly however, this population didn’t last.


In the summer months, the garden could be busy and rowdy, with revellers soaking up the sun. But in the winter, we had it all to ourselves. Well, who else would be daft enough to sit in 1° weather, looking at birds?


But this unique space was a victim of the changing times. Sold off and built on to make more homes. What remains of the garden is now behind a locked gate and high fence, for strict use of residents only. Occasionally, I walk past, and some birds are to be heard, but it’s unlikely the diversity is as high as it used to be.


It’s sad.


This was the place I fed and grew my passion for nature.


A pub garden? Special? Definitely.

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