Country diary: the communal joy of an urban wildflower walk

Country diary: the communal joy of an urban wildflower walk

Country diary: the communal joy of an urban wildflower walk

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire: We grow here together in inconvenient places, squatters sharing space and a predicament

Comfrey, Stoke-on-Trent.

Last modified on Fri 30 Jul 2021 05.23 EDT

I’m finding it hard being cooped up in my urban neighbourhood. Having a disabled body in a pandemic means I’m still stuck where I am, hungry for freedom and connection, making do.

“Why don’t we go on a weed walk? Let’s see what we find nearby,” I ask my mum over the phone. “Ooh, go on then,” says mum, who is plant mad. She arrives in shorts with the Collins Wild Flower Guide and a backpack, ready for our expedition. I laugh and slide on to the mobility scooter that serves as my legs.

Why do I want to look for so-called “weeds”? Because we grow here together: wildflowers in inconvenient places. I want to know these squatters, to acknowledge that we share space and a predicament that makes us kin.

Mum and I go slowly. Every few paces we find one, growing in gaps by a front gate or taking over a neglected corner, splashes of colour steering our eyes. We pause to check names, read out facts. We make each weed special. I wonder if anyone else has looked at them today, or ever.

Poppies, Stoke-on-Trent.

“Hoary mustard! I know you! Hello, herb robert with your red legs. Hello, herb bennet! Wait, what is this one that looks like an alien? Spurge! That was it.”

Buddleia, with its stubborn feet and generous arms full of nectar. Delicate poppies whose flowers might not last the day. Big-elbowed comfrey, nodding moon daisies. We find a whole cheerful horde and greet each one. Hungry bees join us in our ardour, pressing their faces in quick kisses as they pass, promising to come back soon. It is a busy, self-affirming community; the reds, yellows and purples feel like a carnival against the greys and browns of the walls that surround us.

Here in my isolation, I feel protective of it all. “Look!” I want to say to everyone, my heart full. “Look at our tenacious, beautiful neighbours. See how joyfully they celebrate their place here, how powerfully they survive.”

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