The ground is carpeted thick with leaves, brown and red and orange; curling up and crackling underfoot like flames, licking out at my ankles. Overhead the gentle thwack of feathers as a bright green parakeet takes cover high in the treetops, blending in among the green and yellow. The air is cold and crisp yet the sun shines hotly, filtering through the trees and dappling everything with a warm glow.
Walking through the park at lunchtime is a calming experience, especially now that Autumn has arrived.
The park is just a stones throw from my place of work – a small slice of natural beauty and tranquillity nestled among concrete buildings and the hustle and bustle of London life. It’s home to beady-eyed squirrels, herons, parakeets…even a pelican or two.
The wildlife is friendly.
Before I head to the park I make sure I am well-prepared. Pockets stuffed full of nuts and seeds to feed my feathered and furry friends. There’s a quiet place I stop and stand for awhile – between the bushes and away from the tourists. I hold out my hand and watch in wonder as blue tits and robins land, braving a clumsy human like me, to pluck fragments from my palm.
When the birds retreat I move on, to sit under a tree and observe the squirrels. I love to watch them scurrying through the leaves, frantically digging in to the soil, their sharp eyes searching for hidden spoils.
I hold out a walnut and beckon them – one tentatively crawls on its belly towards me. It snatches the nut from my fingers as quick as lightning before darting for cover, all bushy tail and sharp claws. But each time it returns the caution fades a little more. Until it feels so sure of me it places its muddy little paws on my leg, desperate to get my attention and something else to eat.
When all the food is gone I bid farewell to my new friend. I walk a length of the park, kicking piles of golden leaves and staring up between the trees in to the sky.
Sixty minutes of feeling at ease.