The view from my ‘study’ window is one of contrasts. High up at the top of the house, I look down on a builders ‘yard’. It is a scrap yard jumble of bits of wood, metal poles, old cans, a wardrobe, cement mixers and roofing tiles all piled in and on a rickety lean-to, bookended by two shipping containers.
Beyond the yard, there is a stream, hidden from view by shrubs and bushes, and in summer the railway sidings and burnt out huts and sheds are screened by the thick green foliage of the trees that form a shelter belt before the open space of the recreation ground.
When the yard is empty it becomes a playground, perhaps a hunting ground. I can watch a pair of magpies squabbling between the ladders and roofing tiles, and in previous years a pair of great tits have tried to raise their young in a bird box that the yard owner has placed on top of a fencing pole.
In the narrow alleyway between the yard and the houses, a cat will lurk on the sunny side, half asleep, half awake, occasionally pawing at one of the cabbage white butterflies that almost flutters to close.
But the real treat is the swifts. They were late arriving this year, but as soon as I hear that familiar scream, my spirits lifted and as I write this there are a dozen or so patrolling, hunting, and racing up and down and in between the valley and ravines made by the houses. Then they dart in and out of the trees, where perhaps the insects are more numerous.
Like much of the wildlife, swift numbers are declining, habitat loss, collapse in insect populations, climate change all add to the stress on their numbers.
It does not have to be this way. Slight changes can make huge differences, whether it is letting a patch in your garden go wild, farmers maintaining wildflower-rich strips of land around their fields, or householders putting up swift nesting boxes, some of the damage we have done over the years will reverse.
Give nature a chance and she will thrive and amaze us, and we will all feel better and live better for it.