Life on the Floodplain
by Ceri Leigh
WATCHING the floodplain closely over the course of a year opens the eyes to the power of the natural world – and how we need to protect it.
Raging storms in the wintertime cause the dark waters of the Usk river to rise rapidly across the floodplain and geese gather in large flocks to feed at the waterside.
Come spring, all is quiet. The grass and trees grow anew in shades of pale green, robins and redstarts build nests in our garden and swans sail serenely past the riverbend. Delights in the garden as spring approaches are the myriad damselflies; common blue and beautiful demoiselle, flitting around the meadow grasses, sunlight catching their wings, and the butterflies – a ringlet pausing in the grass, a peacock butterfly spreading its colourful eyed wings or a huge hawkmoth sitting on the post-box in the evening.
To the summer, when sunshine highlights the nooks and crannies of the mountains and birds soar high over the floodplain.
And then in the autumn, when the whole land turns golden in this ever-changing vista and I watch mallards and goosanders float by.
It has been interesting to note exactly when various creatures come and go and a privilege to watch them. Tawny owls hoot at night, calling to each other across the floodplain and occasionally I catch a glimpse as one flies back to the garden, batting its eyes at me. A rabbit, rapidly eating the ox-eye daisies on the garden bank amuses me as it hardly pauses for air. Slow worms basking, their little bodies shining golden in the sunlight as they slither away undercover. Squirrels cheekily investigate the birdfeeder before leaping back to the cover of trees and a chaffinch watches me from the windowsill.
Life on the floodplain goes on. Wildlife has always helped with my anxiety, reminding me to breathe. On occasions when I have collapsed in the garden, I come around to see the swaying branches of the trees and the blue of the sky with birds calling all around me – and my husband Andy reminding me that I am safe.
The garden is my refuge from the storm of PTSD – and a refuge for wildlife.