During one of many dog walks in Alexandra Park I found myself in conversation with photographer Tim Clifton. We discovered a mutual admiration for kingfishers. Co-incidentally we had both had our first sighting of the bird many years earlier, from a boat on the River Thames in Maidenhead. Not at the same time or on the same boat, I should hasten to add. Tim was on a riverboat trip, long before he developed an interest in wildlife photography. I was about four years old, living on my family’s river boat home. 

PICTURE: Tim Clifton

LIVING IN A SLOWED DOWN WORLD

In the slowed down world of 2020/1 many people have been able to reconnect with nature and explore the environment. Less traffic meant that birdsong became clearly audible, no longer drowned out by engine noise. With less pressing deadlines some of us began observing and documenting garden visitors, including foxes, badgers and squirrels. 

Animals were not oblivious to the abrupt change in human behaviour. Penguins were seen waddling through the streets of Cape Town in South Africa, a kangaroo was spotted hopping through the empty streets of Adelaide in Australia. In South Carolina alligators began taking over empty beaches and wandering around shopping areas and back yards. In the UK wild goats took over the Welsh village of Llandudno, taking advantage of the empty streets and nibbling on hedges whilst peering in windows to see what was going on. Wild deer wandered into the streets of London. Ducks left their ponds and approached houses, sometimes inviting themselves in. 

PICTURE: Tim Clifton

STEPPING OFF THE TREADMILL

In turn, many humans having stepped off the daily treadmill, became more aware of wildlife and nature. Hastings residents have been amongst the more privileged communities in terms of natural environment. We’ve been able to enjoy the endless variety of scenery available along our coastline and hilltops while taking daily exercise. Alexandra Park, close to the town centre, has also been an attraction to many during a year of social restrictions. People finding themselves with more time on their hands are now able to take a leisurely stroll and discover the wildlife and natural beauty of this Victorian gem. 

PICTURE: Tim Clifton

Tim Clifton used to wander through the park oblivious to the abundant wildlife, until one day he began watching a swan on Buckshole Reservoir and decided to buy a camera. That was ten years ago, and since that time his remarkable pictures have featured twice on the BBC’s Countryfile calendar. In 2014 his picture of Hastings Pier was chosen from 55,000 entries to feature in the calendar, taking the prize for Judges’ Favourite. The following year his exceptional image of a stag in Richmond Park appeared in the 2015 edition of the Calendar. Tim has been a key worker throughout the pandemic. He says “I must admit photography has been my saviour through this last year especially as I have been working right the way through…. getting out with nature is precious to me.”

On my own frequent visits to the park I’ve been lucky enough to see cormorants, herons, jays, song thrushes, wrens, carrion crows, water rats and albino squirrels, amongst many other species. But there are many
more I’ve yet to see including the kingfisher. Meanwhile, however, I’m really enjoying the results of Tim Clifton’s patient observation and technical skill.

PICTURE: Tim Clifton


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