Searching for silence in The Phoenix Garden

I’ve found a new favourite spot to read and think.

Beautiful, eh? A haven of peace, probably miles away from anywhere noisy or busy? Well, no. The Phoenix Garden is a minute off London’s Charing Cross Road and just two minutes away from Tottenham Court Road. Best of all, it’s right opposite Foyle’s Bookshop, so a perfect place to take a newly discovered book too, and just read. Even the benches feel like poetry.

If you look closely, you can see the buildings surrounding it on all sides. But they feel more like walls than intrusions.

 

But despite the numbers of other people here, it still felt as if I got a corner all to myself. Perhaps that’s because of the number of people reading, writing and even meditating – a full crossed legged closed eyes pose that I didn’t want to spoil by taking a picture of. Shh… you can picture it though, can’t you?

And like so often happens, I found myself reading the perfect paragraph. I’d shut my book – Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal – to see if I could really hear birds this close to central London. Yes, I could. When I went back to my book, I found this description – how grown men remembered their childhoods when they heard the birds sing. I loved how I got the shadow of the trees over the page too.

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If you’re in London this weekend, you can even go to their 8th Agricultural Show, with a WI cake stand, London Pride Morris dancers, beekeepers and a brass band. Maybe it won’t be quite so peaceful. IMG_6855

The Phoenix Garden is Covent Garden’s last remaining community garden. It was created and is still maintained by volunteers. It’s an extraordinary project. f you want to donate to help keep it up, you can find out more or become a friend for only £12 a year here.

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Luckily birds don’t know they are tweeting…

… because they might stop at 140 characters then.

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And that would be far too short. Turn your volume up and listen….

This clip above was taken yesterday at the RSPB Ynyshir nature reserve in Wales. I was standing there trying to think how I could describe the beauty of the birdsong. And then I thought I don’t have to, I can record it instead and let the birds sing for themselves. Here’s another.

For lots of reasons we didn’t explore the whole reserve, but it does have possibly the biggest bird feeder I’ve ever seen so we sat on a bench and watched the birds come to us.

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Including what are called, I’ve learnt from a friend recently, are a charm of goldfinch… Isn’t that perfect? Here are some of the other birds seen there…

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And this is a first. The first time I think I’ve put up a photograph of a loo sign from the reserve on this website. But just look how she is dancing… bird10

Perhaps not surprisingly. Research shows that listening to birdsong can help mental wellbeing, increase concentration during homework, and when we are feeling worn out and stressed. 

But we knew that instinctively anyway, didn’t we…

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