Blacktop Rain

…and other secret joys


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London’s Natural History by R.S.R. Fitter

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Feeding the pigeons in front of St Paul’s Cathedral – colour plate from London’s Natural History

This post is part of a series called Small Rain, exploring the history of urban nature writing.

London’s Natural History charts the natural history of London from its pre-historic, geological formation, through the Romans, the medieval period (when kites were a common London bird), the expansion of the city from the fifteenth century onwards, and on to its final bursting point in the mid-nineteenth century. It then looks at the various human impacts on the city’s flora and fauna in the present day (the present day being 1945), including the influence of traffic, refuse disposal, agriculture and the recent war. Whilst the history of London is interesting, it is the snapshot of London in 1945 that I find the most fascinating. For example, Fitter mentions the abundance of sparrows in London, according to Fitter they are the only London bird considered to be a Cockney. Since then the number of sparrows in London has drastically declined – by 60% between 1994 and 2004 according to the RSPB. On the other hand, he mentions the recent increase in the number of gulls in London, a bird that is still increasing in urban areas. Continue reading

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I went for a wander and found… a crocodile!

This morning’s sunshine tricked me into pulling on my shoes and coat and heading out for a walk. I was beginning to regret the hat and scarf as I walked through the quiet Sunday streets in bright, warm sunshine.

On my way to the park I came across a heron on a lamppost. In fact, it’s quite a common sight around here. I’ve also seen them on gate posts, railings and rooftops. They always look to me as though they’re guarding something… Continue reading


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Urban nature safari in Nottingham

safari_intro-630x359The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust recently held an Urban Safari – a 7.5km guided walk around some of Nottingham’s many urban nature spots, including parks, wastelands, woods and a city farm.

It was a really enjoyable day out – it was a great opportunity to see some parts of Nottingham I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise and to discover just how much nature there is in the city, as well as meeting some lovely people.

I wrote a piece for Wildlife in the City about the Urban Safari. If you live in or near Nottingham, read it, download the map and: Go on an Urban Safari! 

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Nostalgia and new beginnings

Image by Lee J Haywood

Image by Lee J Haywood

Autumn might be the season for impending hibernation, but it is also about new beginnings. It is the start of a new term at the university and the campus is packed full of students, holding maps and reassuring pieces of paper. My sister also just started university, so I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic for my own university days. It hardly seems believable that seven years have passed since I started at St Andrews. But then it hardly seems believable that I’ve been in Nottingham for a year. Continue reading


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Cycle adventures in Nottingham

Despite resolving to spend the Bank Holiday weekend writing short stories, the weather was too nice to stay indoors all day, staring at a screen.

On Saturday it was late afternoon before my boyfriend and I could motivate ourselves to leave the couch, so we weren’t up for anything too adventurous, but we still fancied doing something different. Our usual fall back is a cycle ride round Attenborough Nature Reserve, but when we’re looking for a change we get out the map.

2013-05-27 12.54.25 Continue reading