She was fascinated by the ladybird which she held in her hand. At the time, ladybirds were in plentiful supply having set up home in one of the bushes in the gardens at St Mary’s Church. Having been mesmerised by it herself, she was intent on showing others, sharing this tiny bug, plucked from the leaves, and who was quite oblivious to the sense of wonder it was instilling in a human being. This was the first of our Urban Buzz days, as we began to give up part of our grounds to nature, and the girl one of a few young children who came to discover nature on our doorstep.
Finding wonder in the small things is so natural to children, and yet is sometimes lost on us, too busy as we are to see what’s around us and beneath us, on the ground and in the ground.
I love the poem, Fulbright Scholars where Ted Hughes explored the possibility of when he first met his wife “Was it then I bought a peach? That’s as I remember. / From a stall near Charing Cross Station. / It was the first peach I had ever tasted. / I could hardly believe how delicious. / At twenty five I was dumbfounded afresh / by my ignorance of the simplest things.” (Birthday Letters, 1998)
There is much movement on the ground across Cardiff as land is prepared for more buildings. Steel and glass giants, unsubscribed blocks of student accommodation, hotels, restaurants and shops. It is fascinating to watch, to see buildings rise, storey by storey, crafted by the cleverness of human ingenuity, built by the leathered hands of labourers – a collection of construction workers, architects, planning officers, technicians and surveyors on the scene. The built environment is constantly changing around us, tries to tell us who we are.
On the other hand, Cardiff also has over 330 gardens and parks, and is home to one of the largest urban parks in Wales, Bute Park by name, which skirts the River Taff and kisses the castle walls. Across the choppy channel is Flat Holme, a nature reserve, and the further southern tip of Cardiff and of our parish.
And yet, even with these bursts of green, bees, butterflies and other pollinators are in crisis, partly due to the widespread loss of their homes and food. We rely on them to pollinate our crops and feed our wildlife, to sustain the rich bio-diversity of the natural world.
Urban Buzz (a collaboration of the RSPB and Bug Life) is working with local people to offer a clear, simple and effective solution to this crisis by creating new habitats for pollinators, providing vital food, nesting places and shelter for them. Each habitat will form a network of hotspots to help bees and pollinators move about our city. Without this help, they will continue to decline and may even go extinct.
The long stretch along the south of St Mary’s Church will be given up to just this project. Much work has already been done with three visits from GoodGym who zapped the gardens, cleared vegetation, hacked and pulled tree roots from the ground, picked litter and weeded paths. A few parishioners too have done much the same during the Discover Nature day back in July with another working day planned for Saturday 6th October, the back of the work being broken a year ago by Christine and Jim from Loudoun Square. We are awaiting news, too, of a grant application so that the existing fence can be removed, and a new fence erected, taking back half of the vicarage garden where a wild flower meadow will merge into a woodland glade.
In a few weeks, children from St Mary’s School next door will flood the gardens, find out what flies and crawls and creeps around them, and begin to plant and seed the ground.
As well as giving nature a home, the project will provide a means through which individuals and groups can engage with nature, improve physical and mental health and well-being, provide opportunities for new skills to be learned and shared and, hopefully, make the community stronger by providing a project where people can work together, engaging too with socially excluded groups of people.
It is our hope that the Urban Buzz project, our Wild Side, will merge naturally into the rest of our garden space, which will be a place to gather and grow. St Mary’s Church is currently exploring various options for our buildings and grounds, employing our own architect to measure and design different ways in which our building can be developed and improved. It will help us relate more to the local community and the city centre which pushes its weight around us, and aims to address some of the pressing local needs, of which there are many.
St Francis is a famous saint, well famed for his love of creation. In a beautiful book about him, written by Sister Frances Teresa OSC, we read “Francis saw the footprints of God everywhere. From everything that is made, he learnt more about the way God, who made us all, intends us to live together in our shared world. So he learnt from creation the inner meaning of his call to be a brother.”
At the heart of our mission and ministry at St Mary’s is this desire to work together – with those of other faiths or none, so that we may learn how to live together in our shared world, and maybe be dumbfounded afresh by our ignorance of the simplest things.
If you would like to find out more about the Urban Buzz project, or have ideas about how you can get involved with shaping our outdoor space then please get in touch. Contact details can be found at our website www.stmaryscf10.co.uk