What is it? Railway sidings. Actually, an embankment. Fenced off. Unused but for the odd fly-tipper. Seldom visited. Unloved and unnoticed. ‘Cept of course by your roving Londonist reporter.
Where is it? Now in London we all live near railways in some way or another. So we’d like you to read this as any-railway in any-street. But if you must know ours is in Peckham, off Lyndhurst Way, at the entrance of a mini industrial estate called Print Village.
Why has it tickled our fancy? Because it shows Mother Nature working at her absolute best – gratuitously, determinedly, outwitting Man’s (well, Railtrack’s) best efforts to have her blacklisted. Every year some little railway bod comes round with his shears and chemicals and tries to get rid of all the stuff growing there. And every year it comes back again, each time with more exuberant abandon than the last. We like to look beyond the jettisoned tellies, cast off wellies, and empty cans and bags. At the risk of making you puke, there really is beauty to be had everywhere.
Nature Notes: Because most railway land is fenced off from meddling mortals (and quite right too – dear readers, we would entreat you to remember that tracks and trains are dangerous, so don’t go near them), it is a haven for the more tenacious forms of wildlife (especially those of hard hearing, we might venture). A profusion of nettles, wild flowers, ivy, honeysuckle, and lobelia (we are in the habit of identifying any plant of which we don’t know the name as this). Our patch is overrun with blackberries, and whilst we would not dream of trespassing, we see nothing wrong with, er, leaning over the fence a bit.
We have also spotted Brer Fox using the railway as a shortcut to the next urban lair (in fact Londonist once reported an attempted murder having heard blood-curdling screams issuing from a nearby rail track, only to be told that it was foxes having a bit of nooky). Butterflies too, mostly this one, but lots of pretty white ones as well. And because mice love railways, you can occasionally spot the odd greedy hawk up above.
SO next time you’re shutting your ears as a train thunders past you, open your eyes to what’s flourishing and fluttering right next to it.