There are lots of parks in London. Many of our American visitors in particular always comment on the amount of greenery there is in our large city. In central London there are the well-known large parks such as Hyde Park, St James' Park, Green Park, Regents Park and so on, but farther out in every suburb there are many many more local ones. Our part of London is no exception; there are at least four parks within a mile of where I live and even more to add within a two-mile radius. Two of them are, I suppose, my most favourite, but as different from one another as chalk and cheese. Having had Snoopy, our loveable dog for ten years now, I have come to frequent those parks regularly and know them intimately.
One park is wild and deliberately kept as natural as is possible (without the threat of being sued by someone tripping over a log!) It has vast acres of woodland complete with bluebell displays in Spring which attract horticulturists from far and wide, a stream and a couple of fields which have been turned into football pitches in winter and picnic sites in summer. I can usually walk a three-mile circuit of this park and get completely lost in the woodland. It is strange to think of being completely cut-off and completely alone in a city of ten million people. I suppose I visit this park about once a fortnight.
The other park I visit nearly every day. I drop Kay off at the bus stop for her journey to school and carry on with Snoopy to the park arriving at about 8.15 am. It is in the heart of the "village" within London where I live. It too has a much smaller wooded area, a lake, a children's playground, a cafe and horticultural beds, as well as hundreds of squirrels, dozens of geese, ducks, herons and a family of swans. I have in the past (see here) mentioned the dog fraternity here. It is again strange to think you are in a large city yet on speaking terms with every one you meet with a dog. After a while they become firm friends and you stop and chat with them daily. Someone will often pass and hand your dog a biscuit or ask how you are.
Over the years I have come to love this park. When we first moved back to London from Germany, some thirty years ago, Greg and I used to come as a newly married couple to walk the stresses of our jobs off, commune with nature and relish in the thought that we were not really in the hustle and bustle of London. We would take our American or German visitors there and delight in their surprise at so much greenery. I would sometimes go there on my own for solace when it felt like I would never ever be pregnant and my body-clock was on the verge of exploding. Then when we were blessed with the arrival of Kay, we would parade round the lake with the pram and later, as she toddled, show her the ducks and geese and teach her how to throw bread to them. We would scoop her up when she squealed as the geese ran after her and then gently place her in the box-seats of the toddler swings in the playground. Much later we watched
with bated breath as she climbed the stairs of the helter-skelter slide and hurtled downwards in a corkscrew of flailing limbs. When my father died, I would often go there and find my grief would melt with the ripple of the lake and the rushing of leaves; my heart would lift and be happy once more. When things with Greg got really bad, a good walk through the woodland or alongside the lake would cure my low moods or help Kay when she got stressed about it. We would sit by the lakeside
watching the sinking sun and consider what to do, if things got worse.
I sometimes walk round it and thank my lucky stars that I am still able, despite everything, to witness Mother Nature's work. If ever we should move away from this area, I shall miss the park more than anything else. I feel as if it has become a microcosm of my life and has witnessed the ups and downs of my marriage and my life. With the arrival of Snoopy, I have covered every inch of that park on a daily basis and know every tree, every bush, every bit of fence and railing. I see subtle changes in the seasons, arrivals and departures in the wildlife and in the staff that tend the land. I sometimes imagine I am the lady of the manor surveying her land and fuss over a broken branch or a piece of discarded litter.
Right now, the cherry trees are bursting into girlie pink, the ducks are forming pairs, the daffodils are expectantly waiting to fanfare that Spring has arrived and
nature's cycle in all shapes and forms is beginning all over again.