“When I am in the park, sitting watching the swifts arrive, my worries seem to abate” – new book records how Brockwell Park helped many through the long days of lockdown

A woman who took photographs of a park every day during lockdown and spoke to people using it will release a book about their experiences.

Marieke Wrigley took pictures of Brockwell Park in Lambeth every day during lockdown and made a note of the people she met along the way.

Now, she is releasing a book about it called Smelling the Flowers – what a city park meant during lockdown.

She said: “During lockdown I came to my local London park every day – usually in the early morning.

“On each visit I took photos of the flora and fauna. Of the people and scenes of the park and then every day. I shared these on social media. The responses were very moving – both from people I spoke to in the park and via social media.”

Marieke recently retired after 30 years of working in mental health and started a pet photography business.

She said: “People described just how important the park had been to them. In the absence of noise from planes and traffic, our awareness of the sounds of the birds and insects heightened. Gaining solace from being connected to a place of great tranquillity and beauty.

“Some reflected on their own lives and the changes they might make as a result of their time spent in nature during lockdown.

“Those having to self- isolate described how important seeing the photos each day had been.

“Having nature and the outdoors brought to them while not being able to physically leave their homes.

“People expressed their heartfelt gratitude for having a park nearby when others may not be so fortunate.”

One of the people Marieke met, Frank, a music teacher, said: “Being in this beautiful patch of urban wilderness and giving my attention to the birds and plants around me has helped me to slow down.

“It has grounded and steadied me. Ordinary life has slowed down. In this enforced stillness the joy of every note of nature is somehow more heightened. More poignant. More precious.”

Another park user, Mary, who is a mother-of-three, said: “I am on furlough from work. My 18-year-old daughter is hoping to go to university in September. I worry about these things and wonder what this virus has in store for us all.

“But when I am in the park – sitting watching the swifts arrive, hearing the loud, comforting calls of the parakeets, smelling the roses – my worries seem to abate.

“I take solace from being here. Sitting on my favourite bench. Watching the world go by.”

Pictured top and inset: Some of the images captured in Brockwell Park during the spring’s lockdown

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