I pick my way slowly, trailing his enthusiasm.
“Look!” he says “Look!!” and points through the wire at the ground. “Look!” His green wool hat is nearly coming off in the excitement and the bitter cold.
There on the floor he’s pointing to…
No, they’re not turds. They are owl pellets: huge, black, shiny, curvaceous, full of the tiny bones of rodents.
“The barn owls roost in here!”
And suddenly I’m angry.
We’ve seen gulls, and sparrows, of course. Swans, mallard, geese. Chaffinches, redpoll, fieldfare, redwing, oystercatchers, mergansers, golden eye. A kestrel hanging in the air, hunting. We’ve seen island snowdrops, and springing buds. Walkers.
A small paradise of rough ground, water, and the widest sky my heart can hold. A wide sky so close to the town, a precious link to the wild. And now – the evidence of barn owls.
There’s a plan to build a road, a new bridge over the river. Across all this.
Where will the barn owls roost? Where will the kestrel hunt? Where will we walk, under a huge sky?