Featured on The New Nature
– Farthing Downs & New Hill, London, February 2013
Snow covers the Downs. From the town comes the agitated clamour of traffic and, somewhere, the eagerness of a chainsaw. The layer of snow is fresh, renewed by flakes heavier out here on London’s periphery. Beneath my feet the seeds of field scabious, knapweed, yellow rattle and marjoram wait for the thaw, warm in the soil. Just as winter’s onslaught can’t be held off, nor can spring and summer wildflowers be maligned for long. The small pockets of woodland lack the crunch of the open Downs. The snow has melted quickly there, the ivy bright in the tree-dark, a young oak drips loudly, the sound heard out in the snowscape. Winter’s renaissance will be short lived.
A flock of some forty jackdaws whip around in the white sky. They have seen Farthing Downs at its brightest, remaining here to make something of it, even under snow. Their image is otherworldly, as if the past is being ripped out and unleashed, helpless, across the sky. A car passes in the lane blaring tunes, stopping, the driver steps out – at first I think to accost me and perhaps the camera – kneeling down he photographs his car with his phone, front and behind. Two magpies are flushed into the air. He steps in and rolls away. The snow melts and flows in a stream down the chalky hollow of the woodland descending to Happy Valley, heavy droplets falling from gleaming hazel coppices and blackened hawthorn. The world is working.
© Daniel James Greenwood 2013