A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how I sometimes feel sad that our children aren’t growing up in the country, with the wilds of nature on their doorstep.
Then, in our garden on Friday, we found THIS.
I assumed it had smuggled itself here in a crate of bananas. I warned Austin and Gwen to keep far away from its menacing mandibles. That has to be poisonous, I thought, and rushed off to google it. But apparently it’s a crab spider, native to Britain, and not dangerous at all.
In my 18 years of living in deepest, darkest countryside, I never saw anything as exciting or exotic-looking as this. OK, there were some freaky-looking, bright orange insects that swarmed over cowpats. But who wants to get close enough to dung to investigate?
Our little corner of London is home to a vibrant swathe of plants, insects and birds. Wallflowers and campanulae jostle each other for space in the pavement cracks. Parakeets flock in the local parks, and the fat balls in our (very modest strip of a) garden regularly attract jays. The local honey is complex and rich; it’s been said that urban hives produce more flavoursome honey than those in the country, because city bees gather pollen from a more diverse collection of flowers.
But the big difference between country and city kids’ experience of nature, is freedom. I don’t leave Austin and Gwen alone in the garden for long, because I worry about mangy foxes biting off their noses, or marauding squirrels wrestling rice cakes out of their tiny hands. I’m sure that, statistically, they’re more likely to be bopped on the head by a falling tree than attacked by pests. But I am a simple country girl, used to timid, glossy foxes and shy, bushy squirrels. To me, urban animals seem brazen and mean. So I’m not leaving my babies out as vermin bait. And it will be many, many years before I allow them to independently explore the jungle that is our streets.
|Hey – you looking at ME? YOU LOOKING AT ME????|
So, today we went on a nature walk. I wanted to show Austin and Gwen some of the staples of British flora and fauna, and help them discover some weird and wonderful stuff. Here’s what we saw.
Great swathes of buttercups. Our local parks have no-mow zones, where wild flowers and grasses proliferate.
Can anyone identify these? I’m hopeless with fungus. All I know is that these aren’t the kind you see in supermarkets (or psyllocybin….). We found them growing near the riverbank.
The riverbank is lined by beautiful, mature trees. Maples in the picture above, Dutch elm below. The latter is one of the few remaining Dutch elms in this country (and the only one of this particular cultivar).
We ambled around for an hour. With curiosity sated, all that walking had made us hungry. There was just enough time to stop off at the local shop for an exotic treat. Good old London.