Somewhere Else

I live on a floor of chalk, and it is not even. Over most of my parish, geology dips and rises into pretty valleys and gentle hills, like a crumpled tablecloth. But the table ends on our southern border, where the North Downs fall with alarming directness into the lowness before the Greensand Hills, themselves a rim around what was once called Andred’sley, a wild, secretive forest of the south.

People did cross it, back in the day; perhaps they climbed up from it into my hills. Perhaps the 11th century church in my village gave refuge to a weary traveller or two.

Church 8 Apr 20

But travel is not the story of 2020’s people. My daily exercise takes me to the steep southern face of the Downs, but no further. You can see seven counties from there – or is it eight? – and a brightening patchwork of fields and hedgerows.

And a fox. I saw a fox. See him to the right of the jetty, just above the rock?

Fox far away 13 Apr 20

Hundreds of feet below me, and in what felt like a different universe – but, a fox. Out of the North Downs, yet observed by me upon them. I don’t find it easy to carry my 600mm lens, but I needed every inch of glass for this sighting. It took a drink from what I presume is a fishing or boating pond – apparently annoying a passing crow – and then trotted away into the evening.

A wild animal, somewhere else. Yet as I looked up, I saw that there was a second fox, only a few tens of metres away from me. Sitting on the scarp slope, and staring intently at rabbits.

Fox near 13 Apr 20

He didn’t catch one, but he did make me think. One of the rallying cries that I regularly issue on the fox’s behalf is that wildlife isn’t ‘somewhere else’. It is right here, fluttering across lawns, dozing by railway lines, trying to navigate our farms and roads, and even barking in the heart of our largest cities.

Wildlife is not only whales, pandas and tigers, special though all of them are. Amidst all the stress and suffering of these times, I hope that an awareness grows that our own local bits of nature are special and important. The vast increase in outdoor recreation does present some challenges when it comes protecting wildlife from disturbance, but by forcing people to stay local and choose footpaths rather than manmade entertainments, the lockdown may direct walkers into corners of their neighbourhoods that they never imagined existed.

Somewhere else, right here with us.

22 thoughts on “Somewhere Else

    1. A fox I think was in our garden last night because a whole bundle of feathers were left on our lawn from a pigeon.
      I liked your article so much I read it twice.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ain’t that a true for the part of the world where I live now. I was not aware of that until one day I saw 3 raccoons climbing a tree near our building. So what else is lurking our city during night with a mountains and forests just behind a corner?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A few years back, I volunteered for the Edmonton Coyote Project to sort out their trailcam photos. A project like that in Vancouver might yield some interesting results. It is amazing what can survive in the green gaps – I’m often asked where London’s foxes hide, but their understanding of the landscape is far richer than any human’s. They find space.


  2. One of the things I hope this pandemic is teaching humans is that we are not separate from nature, but solidly a part of it. Native Americans use the expression, “All my Relations” which I find most apt. We are inseparable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Without nature we are a lonely species and yet we are in an era where so many people are growing up with the idea that massively sprawling, unsustainable megacities are the ‘real world’. They’re not, of course, and the least of our hills is far older.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it’s very much the heart of the village. My parish is actually older than England itself (the earliest mention of it is 7th century) and although the current church dates from the 11th, it’s still seen many things, including the Black Death and the English civil war. It’s also decorated with one of the oldest wall paintings in the country, thought to have been drawn by a travelling monk about 800 years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

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