Nature: garden, paradise, or wilderness?

This is a review of The Cincinnati Arch by John Tallmadge. This review is part of a series called Small Rain, exploring the history of urban nature writing.

The Cincinnati Arch: Learning from Nature in the City is John Tallmadge’s account of moving to Cincinnati and the slow process of discovering nature in his new home, and with it, a connection to a place he never thought he could like, let alone feel a deep sense of belonging to. The book begins with Tallmadge and his pregnant wife moving from Minnesota to Cincinnati. The opening line of the book states: I never wanted to live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Why move there then? Because Tallmadge has been fired from his associate professor position and with a child on the way, he is forced to take a dean position at Union Institute and University in Cincinnati.

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Rats by Robert Sullivan

These are fancy rats. Image by S. J. Pyrotechnic. Used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

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

Rats centres around a single New York alley way, called Edens Alley, over the course of one year. In the book, Robert Sullivan spends that year watching and getting to know the rats of Edens Alley and learns a lot about rats, humans and New York City.

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Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral by Charles Siebert

Image by Boston Public Library. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

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

Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral is a complex series of intertwined stories. The overarching narrative takes place on a single evening in Siebert’s New York neighbourhood of Crown Heights. As he writes about the approaching night he recalls the last few months spent in a crumbling log cabin in the middle of the Canadian countryside, called Wickerby; his travels in Central and South America; the mumblers of New York; his childhood; and his father. These narratives provide the backdrop for a broader reflection on humans, nature and the city.

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

IMG_20160214_125355This 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.

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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 readingI went for a wander and found… a crocodile!

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 readingNostalgia and new beginnings

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.

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