I’ve always been a dog lover, ever since my father brought a little puppy home from the pet shop because he didn’t want her to spend the night there alone. We called her Sally. She was a spaniel-collie cross and was a loving, intelligent, well-behaved dog. Though she went blind in later life, she would still go on her regular walk, remembering to sit before crossing a road. I would walk her every day after school, sometimes on my own, often with a friend, and I’ve never lost that love of dog walking.
Nowadays I have two little terriers: nowhere near as well behaved, but they give me just as much pleasure. As a writer I spend a lot of time alone with my computer, so my dogs are my constant companions as well as my playmates. Every day I walk them first thing, before I start work, and they give me the motivation to get out of the house and exercise as well as to prepare my mind in a peaceful environment. More recently I’ve taken to walking them twice a day, to give my body a break from the sedentary life.
But with lockdown, I’m back to one walk in the morning, and I make the most of it. I walk for a full hour on the same quiet footpath every day, avoiding sweaty runners and families on bikes as far as I can. The path flanks farmland not far from the river, where the water overflows onto flat land at times. It’s very peaceful and very beautiful.
What I’ve noticed in the short time we’ve been in lockdown is how quickly the wildlife is returning to the Marlow area. I’ve seen a wider variety of wild animals and birds in the last week or so than I ever saw before, despite the fact I’m not walking particularly early in the day. Spring is here, for sure, which brings them out, but there are more, without doubt.
My first thrilling sighting was a peregrine falcon down by the river, high up in a dead tree, surveying his territory. I couldn’t see close up, but nonetheless I was delighted. Since then, I’ve seen a tree-creeper, a deer (in a place you never normally see them), red kites perched in trees nearby and relaxing in the fields, lapwings down by the still-flooded areas close to the Thames, little egrets, jays, wrens, finches galore…the list goes on. A swan on its nest, its partner keeping watch nearby.
To my mind, there’s always a silver lining. This return of nature, so quickly and so close to us, is, for me, a wonderful side-effect of people being forced to stay at home, and the best silver lining I could wish for. I only hope that somehow, when the virus has run its course, our wildlife has reestablished itself and will stay with us forever.