Added: Chantale Foxx - Date: 28.09.2021 06:24 - Views: 41230 - Clicks: 8399
W hat was your lockdown special place? I think most of us had one: somewhere away from home, where we could exhale, enjoy a change of scene and appreciate the peace and beauty of our surroundings. A park perhaps, a riverside or a wood?
On the other side of the fence, a scrubby grass verge is littered with takeaway cartons and cans. Yet both feel affection for the sewage works path. In March, when the Guardian asked readers to share their favourite bleak placesno one expected the Seafield sewage works to be so popular.
Another local resident, Timothea, a furloughed bartender and gallery attendant, also became a fan in lockdown. I, too, love bleak places: I have just moved house and am in the process of discovering new ones on the hunt for quiet places to walk my dog in this new corner of York. There is an intermittently muddy path that runs, then peters out, along a dank, trolley-filled waterway called Tang Hall Beck, and another through a s housing estate that gives way to a completely incongruous field of cows grazing in front of a multiplex cinema. What is the appeal? As Rob Walker, the author of The Art of Noticing and an advocate of exploring the unexpected undersides of cities points out, there has always been a constituency of fans for these types of places.
But pandemic living — geographically constrained, craving novelty and wary of the crowds — has taken the allure of these spots beyond niche. More and more people have discovered the discreet at times frankly imperceptible charm of objectively unlovely places.
With more time on our hands and limited options for how to spend it, many of us developed a new appreciation of the exceptional in our everyday, unsung landscapes. There is a heightened, more granular quality to our observation of them too: tiny quirks of street architecture, the shifting panorama of rubbish and the unexpected cohabitation of the human and natural worlds have all caught the eye. These are places where the imagination can run riot. The hi-vis-clad workmen testing pollution, clods of earth left by amateur golfers, a vast ship turning in the river and kestrels and a skylark overhead.
We joked that maybe it was part of a drug-smuggling operation. They are also places where our recent history, and the waxing and waning of human impact on the environment, are particularly apparent. Every time I visited during the pandemic, a different artefact would appear — full of the patterns and fashions of yesteryear. Another attraction of bleak spots, highlighted by many, is the way the natural world creeps back in when humans withdraw. Many prefer neglected areas, which escape the attention of the council strimmer and weedkiller. When you start noticing plants, you start noticing insects.
It just makes the world ever so much bigger, because you share it with other things. On a sunny day last week, I saw three species of solitary mining bee, while wrens trilled loudly but unseen. Prof Mark Fellowes, of the University of Reading, an expert on urban ecosystems, is not surprised. Concrete, in particular, can be an exceptional habitat. Warmth and insect life can in turn encourage reptiles: this has happened at the abandoned Greenham Common airbase, in Berkshire, which has lizards, slow worms and snakes.
The question, of course, is how to preserve these habitats, which are often earmarked for future development. It can be done. Some of the attention brought to bear on bleak places is affectingly lyrical. There was barely a car around — the bridge is usually a continual roar, but, for the first time, I could listen to the reed beds and wetlands of the Exe estuary, the call of curlews echoing around the concrete. Now our horizons have started to widen again. Will we still see the poetry in our dumps, car parks and wastelands, and appreciate the havens they provide not just for beleaguered nature but also for us?
The canals of Birmingham are for life, not just for lockdown. It would be great if we could walk away from this with that lesson learned. Environment Climate crisis Wildlife Energy Pollution. How to live now Environment. A view of the canal network below Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. Emma Beddington. Reuse this content.Love in seafield
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