July 14, 2012

A secret history

Palace Road Nature Garden continues to throw up mysterious secrets from its past, this time a couple of bricks painted bright blue:

Quite what they were for is anyone's guess; they're painted all over, including inside the frog, so they can't have formed part of a wall.

The garden is full of such things; it is as though they are churned to the surface, then move around for a while, mysteriously, then disappear. I've found a headless statue, a tin kettle, a squashed bucket, old glass bottles, metal crates and roof tiles, all remnants of the large Victorian house that once stood here.

The Nature Garden was the inspiration for one of the key locations in Clay, where, somewhat transformed, it is discovered one day by a lonely little boy, TC, who is skiving off school:

TC began to see that there were things hidden in the ivy: roof slates, a coil of rusted wire, a grey, flattened bucket, the footing for a wall. It wasn’t litter or fly-tipping; he could tell it had all been here for ages, and was part of the place somehow. It made him have a quiet feeling that he didn’t completely understand. In fact, although he could not have known it, he was moving through the ghostly rooms of a long-gone house: kitchen, scullery, drawing room, hall. How strange the house’s last inhabitants would have found the little boy; or, perhaps, not so very strange at all.

Of course, the real inhabitants of the Nature Garden these days are the birds. I've heard tawny owls calling from it, and there are the usual parakeets, crows and magpies; there are thrushes, and a heron, and a pair of mallards, and I've heard blackcaps singing in there in spring. Yesterday I saw a young robin, recently fledged, his red breast just coming in. He looked scruffy and unsure of himself, quite unlike the cocksure little fighter he'll be by winter.

And the garden had one last secret to give up. Not all of this year's birds have been as lucky as the robin, and amid the sodden undergrowth was a young greater spotted woodpecker:

Even dead you can see the strong bill and the short tail it would have used to brace itself against the trunk. It's hard to know what killed it, given that it was so nearly fully fledged and didn't seem to have been predated. Perhaps the constant rain we've been having was just too much; perhaps it got wet, and couldn't dry out, and simply lost too much heat to survive.