Exploring the derelict building site

A tree

It's a warm autumn day, which makes a pleasant change from the recent wind and rain. I set out with the babies to walk around the derelict building site that is just behind the local school. There are lots of unfinished buildings round here, but this site is on a different scale. A whole estate of unfinished tower blocks. So sad and yet so enticing, it's like looking round a ghost town.

I walk along the outside of the school, pushing the twins in the buggy. The small playground is full of 3 year olds, their teachers making the most of the good weather. Dante is amongst them, playing with his friend Luc, but I don't draw attention to myself. Around the playground, past a row of newish houses, all smart in their uniformity. Past a concrete bollard that marks the end of actual road and the beginning of the etherial one.

The road is new, with pavements on either side, red bricks neatly interlocking. A row of trees is planted along the edge, skeletal now but with the remnants of a beautiful red foliage. There is no movement in the air and the leaves hang motionless, as if suspended in time. But despite the obvious newness, nature is claiming it back. There are giant weeds growing in any foothold they can get. Fennel plants, bare now, dwarf me, taking me back to being a child running through a field of thistle in Devon. The countryside is encroaching, attempting to rub out this manmade stain, erase it from sight. If it can do so much in so few years, I wonder how ancient ruins have stood for so long.

I get to the end of the bit of road and arrive at the buildings. The first is the most finished, tall and imposing. Red bricks three stories high, but big gaping holes where the windows and doors would be. You can see in, to nothing. The rest of the buildings are just concrete skeletons, literally the bare bones. There are 8 or 9 in total.

A flimsy wire fence around the outside has fallen over in several places. It's only a nod to security, clearly no one cares if anyone gets in or not. There are piles of bricks, slabs of concrete left abandoned. It's as if everyone went home one night and didn't bother to come back again. A sleeping beauty of building sites.

I walk to what would have been a pedestrian area. Two tall proud cyprus trees mark the entrance. One leaning slightly, the other so bent it looks like it's been on the cava. Not so tall and proud now. This area has lovely olive trees that have been planted in tree holders. And then left. I want to get out my secateurs and tidy them up a bit. Dried, shrivelled black olives scatter the path. I watch the magpies gliding around. They are the only signs of animal life now, enjoying the luxury pent house that never was.

The road leads up to a small pine copse. Then stops. That's it. Beyond that is just waste land, the edge of the industrial estate. I turn the buggy around and head back the way we came.

The wind stirs and the leaves on the trees dance and jingle in response. The hedge of fennel twigs rustles and sighs as if it can hear my thoughts.

We pass the red leaves again and one of bright yellow. It's like one of those kitsch black and white photos of a little girl, except her shoes have been picked out in red. A lady walking her dog says hello. That's all this is now, somewhere quiet to walk your dog. I'm grateful of the recent rain that has stopped it looking like a toilet.

Back past the concrete bollards again and into the real world. The children are still playing in the playground and I bump into a friend who tells me that they started it in haste. It's been there at least 4 years. We walk amiably to the school gate and wait for our children. We talk of other things, forgetting about the abandoned site, just like everyone else.

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