Most of us have a local patch near home where we walk and know well. Our green is a well-manicured area where children play, and all ages play football in winter and cricket in summer. Just a short distance across the road from the green is ‘my patch’. Like the green itself, it's common land, but this area has been mostly left to its own devices for generations, and is now fast reverting to woodland.
Until about a decade ago there were areas of scrub and open grassland here containing lovely wildlife features. Gorse and wildflowers attracted birds, butterflies, lots of bees, and a few small trees added to the variety of wildlife in our village. A couple of local community council do-gooders thought differently, and decided it would be a good idea to create more baron green open spaces. They removed the scrub, mowed the ground incessantly, and canalised the little stream to drain the land. It was of course a thankless task, and in the end they gave up. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in no time at all the wildflowers and scrub returned, the drainage tiles they used were crushed and blocked, and we have the birds and bees back again.
Walking through my patch this evening I’m struck by the size and density of the trees. Nature is taking its course quickly, and already this part of the common resembles mature woodland. Massive sycamores reach skywards, and there are oaks, horse chestnuts and willows getting ever taller by the year. The damp understory is lush with bramble and bracken, and buzzes with hoverflies. There are a few white butterflies too, and a late breeding blackbird comes close with a beak full of food for young I can hear in the undergrowth. The beautiful soft dappled light catches just the tops of willow herbs and foxgloves, playing tricks on the eye. It was not like this a decade ago, and I know my patch will be mostly mature woodland before very long.