This text appeared in the Brockley Newsletter
One damp spring day, I was compelled to stop midway through my Saturday run by an open gate. I had seen this gate before, enclosing some woods.
Now, it lay open and a group of people stood behind it, smiling at me.
‘Hello, here for a wander?’
‘Yes, I was just…’ I started, out of breath from my run.
‘Welcome to the New Cross Gate Cutting,’ said the man.
Open on occasion to visitors, this cutting (also called Brockley Nature Reserve) was first dug in the 19th century and was part of the Great North Wood. The Wildlife Trust help manage the site with Network Rail. For the gate to be open, a requirement is for the reserve to be staffed.
A man walked in to the gate, with his helmet halfway up his head.
‘Anyone seen a black dog? He ran away.’
‘We have seen him,’ said three kids sitting on a log.
They had a consultation amongst themselves and gave him some directions.
There was a slowness to the pace inside the gate, the railway track visible through small gaps in the trees. I continued my run along the path, expecting to be out in a few minutes. But the woods seemed to get bigger as I ran through; the leaves of the oaks moving in the wind. A beetle peeped out of a hole in a log from an insect hotel, a chiffchaff sang and a squirrel scurried past.
I ran outside back to the street again, giving thanks to the volunteers and the three kids on the log, taking with me some of the stillness I discovered inside an open gate on a damp spring day.
Find out when the New Cross Gate Cutting is next open: www.wildlondon.org.uk/
Find out more about the Great North Wood: www.wildlondon.org.uk/great-north-wood