My short story Poppyfields began in a patch of waste ground. The ground had been cleared for a new housing estate, but a legal dispute had broken out, leading to a delay. In the interim, plants and animals colonised the place, so that it became its own little world, cut off from the rest of the world behind a high fence and padlocked gates. Of course in due course the legal dispute would be resolved, the bulldozers would come in, and the ground would be covered in houses and roads, but neither Poppyfields nor its creatures knew or cared about that one bit. Death and extinction are purely human concerns.
* * *
A real-life Poppyfields has now appeared, only a few streets away from where I live. The old site of the Cambridge Water Company was cleared some years ago for development but, for whatever reason, nothing yet has happened. Buddleia, birch and other plants have taken root, and have grown to become a small forest with trees two or three times my height, minding their own business, and separated from the human world by a high fence. It’s just a small patch of ground, surrounded by residential streets, a Leisure Park and an industrial estate, but it doesn’t know how old it is, or how big it is, or how briefly it will exist. It’s as green and alive as the most ancient of ancient woods.
Yesterday, cycling to the railway station, I looked through the padlocked gate, and there was a deer standing there, looking away from me at something among the trees.