Chicken Walk

The name of this post refers to Hasil Adkins’ song, Chicken Chicken Walk – which you should definitely check out. It also refers to my day yesterday during which I attended a ‘hen party’ with my parents, and walked along the route I used to take home from school when I was at secondary school in Croydon. At the ‘hen party’ there were no pink L signs, fairy wings, fluorescent tutus or Lambrini, since this was a type of hen party focussed not so much around celebrating pre-marital female bachelorhood, but more around the joys of keeping chickens in one’s garden. Run by Clive and Rosie Coker and their enviable brood of healthy, egg-laying hens, it was a joyous couple of hours in which we learned what chickens eat, how you must clip their wings in order that they don’t fly away, how easy it is to maintain chickens in one of the well-designed Omlet hen-houses and – very enjoyably – how home-grown eggs improve the flavour and texture of a good old fashioned sponge cake. My mother enjoyed holding Honey.

There is something very pleasing about a brood of hens, especially in the sounds that they make amongst themselves whilst scratching in the grass, digging in the mud and ambling about. I have a recording I made yesterday of the chickens which I will add to this blog in coming days.

I was also struck by the lovely colours displayed collectively amongst this brood. There were tawny oranges and rusty browns and various chocolate shades and flecks of silver and bronze, and colours that were reflected in the names Rosie and Clive have given the hens, like Nutmeg and Honey. And because it was a little bit cold, they all had their plumage fluffed up for maximum air entrapment and warmth.

The hens are also, it turns out, great jumpers. When Clive took out a certain kind of vine and held it for them, they all started jumping up to strip it of its tasty leaves! This was impossible to photograph well without a multishot facility but I have done my best to capture the agile leaping of the birds using my trusty point-and-shoot pentax optio.

After the workshop and our encounter with hens, the Omlet hen house cube and a delicious piece of cake made with Rosie and Clive’s own eggs, we headed home via a route that was my first regularly tramped pedestrian way. It is still one of my favourites.

Turning down this pathway beside the allotments, we headed down a gently sloping hill towards Lloyd Park.

I detested secondary school intensely and the walk home was a great opportunity to shake off the day. Whatever had happened at school was usually forgotten by about this point in my journey home.

I have a very deep affection for these trees under which I got drunk, kissed boys, wrote poems, cried, laughed and danced when I was young. I love how they grow steadily and over decades, and shelter the messy generations of teenagers that spill from the surrounding suburbs into the fields beneath their branches. There is something very reassuring about the sustained presence of these trees, the persisting layout of the fields, the unchanging quality of this small patch of green and its enduring beauty. I think of it as truly being some kind of home ground. I wonder how many other people mentally lay claim to the landscapes that contained and witnessed their rites of passage? I always dreamed, walking through Lloyd Park, of running away to wild places. I think that walking through these fields home from school on many days helped to nurse these fantasies and though I think they are ridiculous now, there is also a level at which these romantic notions have actually influenced my life. These trees and fields encouraged me in my dreaming, and they still do. Everyone needs a place with trees in it that encourages their dreams.

The lovely wide fields are kept just unkempt enough to feel free and wild and just tidy enough that you can actually walk through them. In summer, the grasses grow long and there are loads of wildflowers sprinkled throughout these fields. We had a greyhound once – Queenie – who used to go inexplicably beserk in this field, so our family now know it as Queenie’s Beserker field. After rubbing her face in the ground for a few seconds she would tear off around the perimeter in an impish display of (fast) joy, her tongue lolling from one side of her mouth and her paws making a thunderous sound as she ran.

Descending through Queenie’s Beserker field towards a gate with a large tree above it, one prepares to enter the far more tame and manicured landscape of the golf course. It is covered in neatly spaced lines of trees which look especially spectacular at this time of year.

…and then it’s only a short way left, to home.

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