I found a place –
a hopeful place
a place of concrete
slowly folding into
the soft belly of Mother.
Forty years abandoned
the former brickworks now
relaxing; opening to probing
roots of butterfly bush.
Fissures filled with fallen leaves;
the seasons’ soils
invite the hawthorn pips
and sloes to grow, and so
a new haven takes shape.
I think of all the fields and forests
to the west, now lost under
bricks fired here
and smile at Nature’s justice.
At how She beckoned the nightingale to stay
and paint the night with his
golden song from the may trees as they
shimmer blue-white in the moonlight;
bridal, virginal and heady-scented
with sweet nectar
and promises of crimson fruit
to stain the blackbird’s yellow bill.
I sat one night on the golden moss
and drank in his honeyed song
under the fullest moon –
before I knew.
Before I knew this hopeful place
is worth too much to those
who put a price on the priceless;
who’ve never sat and
surrendered their soul
to the starry sky and nightingale song
and to tales once told by ancestors gone.
This scrub will be scrubbed out by
yellow metal machines
that will shake nests from
hawthorns so easily torn;
four decades of wilding undone.
And when he returns next spring
to lure a mate and make new kin,
from Africa to this spot in Conyer,
Where will the Nightingale sing?
Where will he sing?
© Bea Lehmann 2020
I wrote this poem shortly after a visit to Conyer Brickworks – an abandoned industrial site (brickworks!) now reclaimed by nature. My husband and I visited at night and listened to the bewitching song of one particular nightingale from a moonlight hawthorn tree covered in blossom. There are many breeding pairs of nightingales and turtle doves at Conyer. Shortly after our visit, we were heartbroken to discover the site is under threat of being developed into luxury homes. Our nightingales have so few places left to live – hawthorn and blackthorn scrubland is not welcomed in the UK but it is an incredible environment for many species, and it is an essential part of rewilding our landscape.
My husband and I started a campaign to raise awareness of the building project and asked as many people as possible to submit objections to the planning application. You can read more here.