Radio Lento podcast

Abney Park on Christmas Day in the morning

January 2, 2021

Through the bare limbed trees of Abney Park nature reserve in Hackney, London a song thrush sings sweetly. It's first light. The air and the microphones are frozen, left behind through a long night and its icy winds. Ivy hangs still, above the lion on the tomb. Abney Park is both a nature reserve and one of London's 'Magnificent Seven' cemeteries. It's early, silky quiet. The park hasn't opened yet. The derelict chapel is an angular shadow beneath leafless trees. Footpaths lie empty, gravestones unread. Everything's waiting for the people to appear. Bathed in the soft city rumble, the softest it can be, the rooks see the light and caw from the treetops. Wood pigeons wake up. Robins stationed on branches one, two, three, brightly twistle strong melodies, mark their territories, all puffed up against the cold. Seagulls wheel in the wide open above the wood, and a sparse few planes rumble by, long haulers coming in, they must be, this being Christmas Day. With the gathering light comes the dazzling spacious song of wrens. A woodpecker. A fleeting murmur of passing geese. A hint of a breeze, a moment of shift in the ivy. And then of alerting birds and far off the sounds of people, a family, happy children and their dog. The first in. The first through the gate. The first to breathe the pure crisp air of Abney Park, on this fast brightening Christmas Day of 2020. [This episode was produced in collaboration with the Abney Park Cemetery Trust.]

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