Restore Nature Now - Group of people at the front of the march

A Quaker on a March: a tired day restoring Nature

Are you awake?

It’s six o’clock, light but not sunny

I think so..

I’ve already got up and changed, but I don’t feel awake.

My sister and I head over to Hampstead Ponds. Without my hearing aids and with her inability to hear whilst driving, it is blissfully quiet. I only notice my tiredness as I stumble out of the car, and realise crossing the leafy road needs attention.

We are the first into the water, cool but peaceful amongst young ducks leaping and running across the pond, coming close but not colliding. My sister decides that two laps are enough, and my body agrees, so I take heed and return. We come home to hot coffee and breakfast.

I’m in London for Restore Nature Now, bringing together supporters from over 350 organisations, including Quakers (together with RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Surfers against Sewage, and Extinction Rebellion), to march from Park Lane to Parliament Square. I don’t have to head off until 9.45 so sneak back to bed, escaping life with The Thirty-nine Steps. Then hat, sunscreen, water, lunch, waterproof packed, and I move heavy legs through the litter strewn expanses of Finsbury Park to the Tube. Its already warm, but not too crowded.

It’s the drums that penetrate my tiredness first. I can’t see the drummers, but there is a skip in their beat that suggests it’s not the Changing of the Guard. Then I see huddles of bright pink hi-viz, other stewards-to-be. Lots of old people! Suitably equipped I lie down on the grass, blissfully horizontal. When I open my eyes, I’m shocked to find I’m alone. Fortunately, this is temporary: stewards are being formed into teams and soon I’m attached to a group, and dispatched to lamp-post Nine.

There is more waiting, and I find a comfortable ledge by the railings guarding the Dorchester (from us). A stream of people walk past: people dressed as trees walking one way, a group of puffins in the other (but then back again as they were supposed to be behind the trees). I greet a fellow QUNO trustee as they wander past to join the Quaker group near the trees. A scientist tells me of his distress at witnessing the coming mass extinction of the marine life he studies: thought safe from climate change in the deepest, coldest parts of the seas, rapid ocean warming is cutting off their food supplies. It’s a disaster and there seems to be little we can do about it.

Then we are off, thousands of people moving slowly down Park Lane, along Piccadilly, past the “London Dykes” going noisily in the opposite direction, past a free West End Musical in Trafalgar Square. My role is to keep a gap between the Land section and the Oceans. With five other stewards we slowly stop and start, stop and start as the massive cavalcade, estimated as nearly 100,000 people, goes forward. The shout of “Restore Nature Now” goes up at intervals, reminding us why we are there.

Chris Packham is spearheading the event, and introducing speakers at the rally. I squeeze closer to the stage to see him properly, and then wander round the back to get a sideways look. He has real presence, big, strong, clear, confident, has something to say and says it well. I’m smitten. And still tired. The speakers are great: Feargal Sharkey stirring up the crowd to call for reform of our water companies, two amazing youngsters, one long legged pre-teen calling on her idol, Taylor Swift, to give up her private jet. They are moving and inspiring.

Walking back, past the many thousands of people making up the rest of the march (Parliament Square was soon full), I wander into St James Piccadilly and find a group rehearsing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, breathing life into the well-known piece, restoring and re-balancing me.

On the tube a girl offers me her seat.

“But I’m not that old!” But she insists, and I’m grateful.

Kate Graham is a Member of Ilkley Meeting and a Trustee of Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO). She isn’t that old really, just a bit tired….

Kate Graham
Scroll to Top