previous | home page | this month | e-mail me | next

The Secret Life of Front Gardens

Richard Bell’s Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Friday, 27th February 2009

previous | home page | this month | e-mail me | next

front garden
hazel catkins

Daffodil Triangle

Growing in a small triangular copse by the stream that runs between Horbury and Wakefield, the first daffodils I’ve seen this year are in flower. They’re a miniature variety that might have found its way here with garden (or house plant) rubbish.

Hazel Catkins

Now that the greenish-gold catkins make them obvious, it’s surprising how many hazel bushes there are dotted about, even as you get into town. There’s one growing behind spiky railings on what I think of the last wild patch before the city centre, behind Cineworld and the bingo club.

Mallards Dabbling

A mallard and his mate dabble at the edge of a patch of water in a badly drained corner beside the athletics track in Thornes Park. A tiny patch of wilderness but they seem as happy here as they might be on a wetland reserve. On my urban walk these two have the power to conjure up a wilder world for me.

THE SUBURBAN ROAD into town isn’t the most inspiring with the traffic buzzing past all the time so - as even I don’t draw and walk at the same time - I amuse myself by spotting groups of trees, or details like swelling buds on the hedges that I might like to draw and I find myself composing a mind-sketch of them as I walk along.


Only yards from the incessant traffic, front gardens create a room-sized oasis of calm. I remember when privet hedges were considered a cliché of suburbia but they’re a perfect backdrop for the secret worlds of these little gardens. Some include water features, flower tubs and rock chippings while the most traditional, at this time of year, offer little more than a soggy, tired looking lawn and the pruned-back stems of hybrid tea roses. But isn’t that so much better than looking out on a neat car parking area?