Garden sanctuary

Suzanne McIntyre is missing the nature reserves she manages in the south of Scotland. But she’s discovered there’s a lot more life in her own back yard than she had realised, and that tuning in to nature in your garden can make time disappear… 


The number of birds I’ve seen in my garden these past weeks is astonishing. A pair of dunnocks call reassuringly to each other as they hop through the hedge; blue tits take turns to chatter and preen in the willow as the great tits confidently make their rounds. I smile at the blackcaps’ rapid switch, from beautiful song to stone-striking alarm; and admire the elegance of the thrush, always dignified, even whilst smashing a snail from its shell.


There is laughter in the escalating verses of the blackbird; and the song of the robin, whose territory I now happily share, feels welcoming — after all, there are many worms to be had following my burst of energetic digging.


My garden, as for many of you, has become a place of refuge from the news headlines and frustrations of lockdown life.  I have never taken the time to practice meditation, but feeling like Alice in this newfound wonderland I understand how each and every moment can be momentous. Gardening is no longer a chore to be rushed, my subconscious takes care of the digging, raking and pruning, while I watch and listen, uncovering layers of sound and sensation.

One-note chaffinches, two-note chiffchaffs and three-note collared doves chant by turn and then in harmony through the trees. The stillness of lockdown amplifies their melody and the steady humming bass of hoverflies and bees floating above their flowers.


The alien beauty of a poplar hawk moth resting in the lilies catches my eye as I rise from a crouch, a prickle of numbness in my legs from too long watching a wren fussing in the beech.  I take a break, lying on the grass like a child and stare up into the blue sky where swifts track and turn above darting swallows, as wood pigeons shuttle heavy shouldered back and forth.


Clouds obscure the sun, sobering the mood. My garden time over for the day, as I take a step back to the house, a dropped biscuit crumb is whisked away by an opportunistic mouse.

All photos and videos (C) Suzanne McIntyre.

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