Caught by the River

West End Woodcock

19th February 2009


We here at the Five Dials/Hamish Hamilton HQ on London’s Strand are wildly excited about the recent sighting of a woodcock in the vicinity. According to a letter in this week’s Country Life, the woodcock flew into the kitchens of our neighbours at Simpsons-in-the-Strand (highly recommended as one of the last vestiges of pre-war London life), made a frantic tour of the pots and pans, then collapsed in a corner. When finally released to the wilds of Embankment Gardens, a voice was heard to say: “That’s £10.50 you’ve just put out of the window!”

A long-billed woodland bird which migrates westwards from Russia and Scandinavia driven by Arctic blasts, perhaps it was blown off course and is now on its way to its winter resting grounds, but to us it seems an apparition straight out of the pages of Roger Deakin or Robert Macfarlane — and a happy reminder of a world beyond WC2.

Simon Prosser