Although Greenstead consists of a huge council housing estate, those of us who live here are blessed with the opportunity to enjoy wildlife within a 10 minute walk from wherever you are. To the bottom is the large and fabulous Salary Brook Nature Reserve, and at the top is the small but perfectly formed Ghost Wood.
Historically, Ghost Wood has been inhabited by the dregs of society and been the victim of vandalism and dumping. These groups wrecked the trees and bushes where birds and animals nested, they lit fires that destroyed everything in sight and left piles of dirty needles, cigarette ends, beer cans and broken bottles all over the place. This made the entire area a no-go zone for locals for many years. Without the necessary resources, all that the local council could offer were a few ‘no litter’ signs, when in reality a full-time ranger would have been the ideal solution. However, thanks to a dedicated group of local residents and zone wardens, this once derelict woodland has been transformed into a haven for wildlife, and a beautiful area for wildlife lovers and responsible dog walkers to enjoy.
Yes, there are still a few areas of litter and dog fouling, but the improvement is marked.
I took a walk to the woods this afternoon, and despite the recent storms and flooding; which has felled trees and made some of the pathways too muddy to use; I was thrilled to see and hear so much nature. Within seconds a grey squirrel raced up a nearby tree trunk and within minutes I spotted another one!
The glorious sound of all the birds chirping and calling to mates (and potential mates) was almost deafening and I nearly forgot that I was actually standing just a few yards from a row of houses. Along with the larger pigeons, collared doves, magpies and a rather splendid jay, I saw robins, great tits and sparrows. On the ground I saw wild violets.
I was only in the wood for about ten minutes in total, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will make regular visits in future so that I can see it throughout the different seasons.
I just hope that the small minority of sofa dumpers, irresponsible dog owners and shrubbery-wreckers don’t get the opportunity to spoil this wonderful space for the rest of us again.