Posted by: Ross Gardner | September 4, 2011

It’s good to walk

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria). Copyright 2002 Ross Gardner.

Walking is good for you, leaving the car at home is good for the atmosphere and bus fares are ridiculously expensive; three good reasons why walking is good.  Another reason is that watching football is also expensive and all the more encouragement to enjoy the benefits listed above.

There are many routes for me to walk to Roots Hall, the home of none other than Southend United.  Straight along the A13 for about three and half miles, before angling from its course towards the ground is probably the most direct.  But with the summer sun shining warmly, who needs direct.  Prittle Brook runs through woodland during its earlier stages and conveniently close to my house.  Thereafter, it flows with occasional wandering curves past a golf course and school fields, by allotments and tennis courts, and behind the gardens of suburban Southend and its adjacent districts.  What’s more, it runs almost as close to the football ground as it does to my house.  Very handy.  All the more so that along the length of its course it is accompanied by not only a footpath, but also, at the very least, a ribbon of green.  Not just the green of close-cropped turf, but of hawthorn hedges, bramble scrub, rank grass and towering trees.

Thus it provides a route that so frequently feels removed from its urban environs.  One where wild plants and animals find sanctuary from built environment that prevails around it.  There is something about the wildlife that thrives in a town.  The familiar has a freshness about it, derived from the surprise of it being there and the sense of resilience that goes with it.  The irony is that the Roesel’s Bush-crickets buzzing among the grass very likely have no sense of the town spreading out beyond its grassy frontier and the Speckled Wood butterflies that flit along the way have little need to stray from the shelter of the hedges and tall trees.

There will never be a substitute for vast tracts of contiguous habitat, but these urban gems, of which most towns and cities possess, are precious, imporant and always with the potential to raise the eyebrow.  Along The Brook, I am only half surprised (but always delighted) to see Grey Wagtails in the autumn and winter, as indeed I did on this occasion, or a Sparrowhawk overhead, scanning for the small birds that fill the trees and bushes.

A enjoyed a very fine walk to the footy and although Southend chucked away a two goal lead to draw 2-2, it was a hugely entertaining match.

By the way, my new website is up and running at  There’s some nice galleries on it and even a bit of poetry, all in due course to be added to, changed about, or both.

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