It’s easy to forget sometimes that “nature” isn’t always, or only, to be found somewhere else.
I was reminded of this with a visual jolt from a poppy this morning. On a road about five minutes’ walk away from mine, between the foot of the iron railings of a factory (makers of corrosion prevention and sealing products for pipelines) and the inner edge of the pavement, I saw an unexpected line of plants – or weeds as a younger me might have thought, had he noticed.
Given where it had sprung up, this little linear strip of greenery, seemed surprisingly prolific and varied, including, I think: Dandelions, Herb Robert, Wood Avens, Wall barley, some other grasses and plants I didn’t know, and shining out in red, catching my eye, Poppies.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. I understand that in urban environments, all kinds of plants, animals and habitats are there to be encountered. That ‘the great outdoors’ is all around us, and within us, not preserved solely in distant rural landscapes, a drive, or train ride away. That said, as someone fairly well versed in edgelands literature and a volunteer for the Local Wildlife Trust, I still find it hard to escape the notion that to experience even urban green space, requires, at the very least, a walk to the local park, common, or woods.
It’s all a matter of scale and degree I suppose – unbroken vistas of rolling downs, high moors, or jagged shores, are rarely to be found smack in the middle of a city street. But there’s something joyful about these miniature, perhaps temporary micro landscapes, popping up among us too – self-seeded guerrilla gardens.
There at my feet, as sirens blared down the road, squeezing up from gaps and cracks in the pavement, to the right of spattered, old rings of gum, a mini-meadow has emerged – and within that, no-doubt, ants and flies and snails and myriad other smaller creatures are getting on, while they can, with the urgent business of living.