Category Suburban nature

9th April 2021 – Wood-rushes in Wandsworth

I haven’t missed pubs, but botanizing in company again feels like an exceptional treat. Today I’m going on a plant hunt in Wandsworth Cemetery with Roy Vickery and a group from the South London Botanical Society. I meet first with Sarah Webley on her patch, Wandsworth Common. This area is new to me and hadn’t […]

12th April 2021 – A strange kind of beauty

“Mum, can I come?” Words which are always a lovely surprise. After negotiating a mix of walking and plant-hunting, we set off in warm sun and arrive at the Woodland Trust site near Biggin Hill as it is starting to cloud over. It rarely happens, but on this occasion the botanical treat was growing right […]

29th March 2021 – it’s a big day today!

This housing estate in south London is my favourite for plant-hunting. Not too tidy or gardened, but not too quiet or edgy either. There’s clearly need here – with a busy and efficient foodbank run from the community centre – but I feel relatively safe kneeling or lying on the pavement taking photographs of plants. […]

1st March 2021 – You’re gorgeous… how could I have missed you?

We’re on the upper terrace of Crystal Palace Park scanning the ground beneath a scrappy hedge. “They’ve cut it back too much,” my friend says sadly, “There were lots here last February but perhaps there won’t be any this year”. And it really doesn’t look very hopeful. The turf is quite churned up but we […]

22nd February 2021 – Blossom with history and my first firecrest

It’s an overcast day in South Norwood Country Park but I’ve brought my camera, ever hopeful. Picking our way through the mud, my friend, her dog and I come across a small tree with flowers emerging snowy white just as the sun makes its presence felt. I’m pretty sure this is not a Blackthorn; for […]

15th February 2021 – an addition to my suburban garden bird-list

I blame Stephen Moss – writer, birder and all round nice guy – for getting me started on compiling a garden bird-list. After reading his latest garden bird in the Somerset Levels, I sat down with a cuppa one morning to remember everything we’d ever seen in our five by six metre suburban back garden […]

20th December 2020 – the blooming East Sussex coast

I really do love trees but seeing that the forecast for Thursday was spectacularly good on the coast, the thought of seeing some colour was more than I could resist. Following the advice from a friendly Sussex botanist I set off east from Brighton pier and tracked the top of the chalk cliffs as far […]

13th December 2020 – from skylarks to campions on a whale’s back

The landscape of Kipling’s “whale-backed” South Downs causes mixed emotions. On the one hand there’s the relief of rolling green hills after weeks of walking the London suburbs. On the other hand, the vast featureless flinty fields are a depressing reminder of the desperate and precarious state of British farming. A state that’s likely to […]

6th December 2020 – a really really big foxglove…

I’ve been distracting myself from short gloomy days with trees. Today I go back to visit my favourite tree in Gipsy Hill, this Foxglove-tree, Paulownia tormentosa. Why do I care about this tree? Well, it’s next to an Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa bignonioides, and both the London Tree Map ( and the Tree Talk map […]

29th November – marsh harrier hulking in spindly tree…

Opalescent light across the estuary at Rainham marshes as the fog lifts. My good friend Sophie’s a welcome change from lone excursions; we chat & look, flipping from plants to birds & back. In a spindly tree, a marsh harrier hulks, then lifts on oblong wings. A second tracks the line of pylons. High above, […]