The Crow Ground, autumn, a general update.

The soil has all been scraped off the Crow Ground. Scraped off and arranged in an enormous pile with a flat top, like a low-rent sculpture of Table Mountain out of Close Encounters. The mound of what was rich habitat is taller than the buses that wait in the slip road beside it. Next to this great pile, a pair of inexplicable machines reach out with orange arms, like robot lobsters. They are some sort of crane, but not a type I have ever seen before.

The crows are diminished. Have they moved on, or starved? It could be either. I saw fewer than ten birds there today. Under the lamp posts where they perch are just a few white dots of guano, instead of the usual bold statement on the tarmac.

The starlings – my favourite urban birds for their raucous, dinosaur ways – are also fewer, in their tens rather than their hundreds. People ask where these populations are going, in London. It is not lack of food. The pickings in Sainsers car park are as rich as ever, and I doubt the birds that lived on the brownfield site beside it ever had to bother much with foraging for wild food. But they have nowhere to live, nowhere to roost, because it is all, all of it, every spare inch of London, being turned into flats.

We have enough people.

I don’t mean London. I mean the world.

Even with this disappointing development, it was a beautiful day today, with the maples on Winsford Road, and the cherry in my own garden looking as bright as late fireworks:


On Neufchatel the cherries sit cloaked and puddled in scarlet, like saints with their hands out to the sky.

As if the tiresome process of taming the Crow Ground is somehow contagious, someone has filled in the Great Lake on my moraine*. It was completely filled in two weeks ago (very foolishly) with topsoil, which all migrated with the first rain we had, like something off a Venezuelan news-reel, down onto my road and into my house via wrecked shoes and muddy-bottomed trousers. The moraine itself became treacherous to walk on. After a week, whoever had done the first filling-in realised that they had made matters infinitely worse and filled in over the top of the soil with tarmac, which they have not compressed, rather relying on the few cars that pass over it each day to press the stuff flat, which they have more or less done.

I would feel sad about losing the Great Lake, despite the moraine now being more reliably cross-able: but some other idiot has tried to fill in the second-greatest-lake with loose bricks. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that after a very few cars and some frost have worked on them, the bricks will quickly turn the second-greatest lake into something much bigger than the first. So I have hope for my tiny wilderness.

In allotment news: there is none. My back continues to be miserable and I haven’t been near the place for over a week, nor have I done anything to my back garden, which cries out to me every time I go near a window. I feel like a neglectful parent with her children locked in a wardrobe.

* The moraine is an unmade road which becomes, effectively, a series of lakes, torrents, and treacherous gravel when it rains. Hawthorn hedge down one side, towering fence, yew and knotweed on the other, I have to scramble over it, and in one or two places this is only possible on rainy days if you’re prepared to half-climb along the fence. It destroys my shoes and sometimes makes me fall over. But there are coolly staring foxes that live on it and play in the sand-pits on the athletic field behind it. In the summer it is all sparrows dust-bathing and arguing in the hedge. At night it is a combination of rapists (yes, really) and large tegenarias, and at dawn the fly-tippers emerge shyly into the light and build their exotic bowers from old televisions and builders’ rubble, rags, chewed dolls and on one occasion, the entire contents of a solicitor’s office, including much of Butterworth’s finest. The predatory council van almost immediately removes these careful constructions, thus preventing a full fly-tipper lek from ever developing. I fear for the survival of the fly-tippers, as a species, if they are not permitted to display and compete for females in these rare breeding grounds.

It is a wild place, so I love it pretty much because of its inconvenience. I pretend that I am tiny when I walk down it, and that it is the flank of some great mountain, in a wilderness. If you squint your eyes up just so, it becomes true.

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