Category Archives: conservation

London Over and Under

London Over and Under: 

This is the post I have intended to write for a very long time but which has been sparked by the Tuesday Falling. In it the heroine lives under London in the forgotten and secret places and streets that still exist from all the previous Londons that have been built on and covered up.

I am going to go through the secret places that are mentioned in the book and then I will talk about some of the other secret places that exist. I take my research from a number of websites but also several books: Shakespeare’s London by Stephen Porter; I never knew that about London by Christopher Winn; London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling; Underground London by Stephen Smith; Vanished City by Tom Bolton; and London – City of Disappearances by Iain Sinclair.

 Places mentioned in Tuesday Falling:

The Marquis of Granby pub is at 41 Romney Street in the area known as Fitzrovia and also at 2 Rathbone Street!  Interestingly they are both owned by Nicholson’s.  It was named after the an 18th century war hero who rewarded officers from his own coin.  Only officers it would appear… John Manners – the Marquess as it was titled then, was a Lieutenant-General 1721-1779 and served in the 7 years war (which affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines) and eventually was named Commander In Chief of the Forces. It is said that he has more pubs named after him than any other person because he had the practice of setting up old soldiers from his regiment as publicans.

Brydges Place, Convent Garden,  is known as London’s narrowest alley. It is by the Coliseum and connects St Martin’s Lane with Bedfordbury.  The Marquis of Granby pub backs onto the alley – and it is this pub that was where Dickens drank. The Harp pub also has a back entrance into this alley harp-covent-garden-10.

Convent Garden itself is the heart of the market of the old Saxon town of London. Aldwych means ‘port’ in old Danish and we see his reference in the name of the church that peals out ‘Oranges and Lemons’ ie St Clemens (or Clements) Danes. [See the nursery rhyme details below] This current church is a Wren design on the ruins of an older church an dthe rumoured burial place of Harold Harefoot, the Danish king.

Westminster also sees the River Tyburn flowing through it. ‘Ty’ meaning boundary and one can see why here as there were many boundaries for it to chart through the ages.

Convent Garden is of course famous for its Flower Market and theatres and opera house where one could find various forms of companionship amongst those wandering there as well as purchase the odd nosegay…

Now it has been revitalised as a tourist destination with outdoor entertainment and stalls selling handicrafts and other trinkets as well as some trendy eateries.

Nursery Rhyme:

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great Bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Interestingly the earlier versions of the rhyme do not have the last 2 lines in them – those which are of course, the childrens’ favourites! However there is a another version of the rhyme which is more sinister:

oranges

chopper

Wild Flowers of London: herbal remedy anyone?

                In our garden group we frequently have guest speakers. Recently David Bevan came to speak to us twice. His first talk was about the wild flowers of London.

David Bevan use the definition of the London Natural History Society, i.e. the area within a 20-mile radius of St. Paul’s to define the area as London for the purposes of considering  wild flowers..

BACKGROUND

London has a very rich and diverse mixture of native ‘weeds’ and ‘escaped exotics’ (such as buddleja – an escapee from China). Surveying has recently started for a new ‘Flora of the London area’ – the original one was published by the London Natural History Society in 1983. This survey identified approximately 2,050 plants – even more than the number in Dorset, which is the richest county in England, botanically. A recent survey of Hyde Park alone identified 287 wild plants.

Reasons for London’s rich flora:

  1. As a great commercial city historically seeds have come in from all over the world.
  2. The large number of gardens in London: more than one-fifth of London is occupied by gardens (GLA estimate), and plants tend to escape from gardens.
  3. Survival of relict populations: London contains little pockets where rare native plants still survive, whereas in rural areas they tend to get destroyed by hedge-cutting, herbicides etc.
  4. London’s very varied geology offers a wide range of habitats, each with its own distinct flora – from chalk to Bagshot Sands (e.g. Hampstead Heath) to London Clay.
  5. The ‘heat island’ effect: There are fewer frost days, hotter summer temperatures and about three weeks extra growing time compared with surrounding rural areas. An example of a plant which reflects this effect is the Chinese Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, which only flowers in a mild late November. Shown below.

 

chinese mugwort

The anticancer activity of flavones isolated from Chinese mugwort against several cancer cell lines has been documented in numerous in vitro and animal studies. However, clinical trials are lacking to support use in cancer treatment or prevention. What has been documented however is that below:

Sometimes overlooked for more “flashy” herbs in this current day, mugwort is still a favorite of wise women. Mugwort has an affinity for the female reproductive system and is used as a uterine stimulant that can bring on delayed menstruation and help restore a woman’s natural monthly cycle.

As all the bitter herbs, mugwort is an excellentdigestive stimulant and is quite effective taken before or after heavy meals to alleviate gas and bloating.

One of the more interesting traditional uses of mugwort is that of a dream herb. It is often used as one of the main ingredients insleep pillows, and it said to bring the dreamer more lucid dreams. Mugwort is also often used as a smudging (burning) ceremonial herb. It is mildly sedative and useful in calming frayed nerves and easing stress. A combination of agrimony, mugwort and vinegar is an excellent treatment for sciatica or muscular stiffness.

Preparation Methods & Dosage: Mugwort can be taken in teas, or tinctures. Often mixed with lemon balm or other sweeter herbs.

INNER LONDON

London Rocket, (Sisymbrium irio) shown growing near Tower Bridge and near St. Paul’s. A Mediterranean plant, it came in via the port and had grown in London since the Great Fire (1666) when it grew in the ashes. It is specific to London, growing nowhere else in the country and reflects the ‘heat island’ effect, nowhere else being warm enough. The little beaded seed pods top the flowers and it has deeply-cut leaves. Since most of the little open sites around Tower Hill have now been built on there are very few sites where it is now found, but it has survived in one small area.

london rocket plant

It is a plant in the family Brassicaceae and an annual. The leaves are broad and often lobed, while the upper leaves are linear in shape and up to four inches long. The fruit is a long narrow cylindrical silique which stays green when ripe. The younger pods overtop the flowers. When dried the fruit has small red oblong seeds.

London rocket is used in the Middle East to treat coughs and chest congestion, to relieve rheumatism, to detoxify the liver and spleen, and to reduce swelling and clean wounds. The Bedouin use the leaf of London Rocket as a tobacco substitute.

Rosebay Willow Herb Chamaenerion angustifolium and Buddleja around Gloucester Place: The London bomb sites were renowned for being quickly colonised by rosebay willow herb, but have almost all now disappeared. A small bomb-site ‘relic’ remained until recently near Gloucester Place, where this plant still survives and where buddleja (one of the best ‘escapers’) also thrives.  In the Springtime the young shoots and leaves of the rosebay willowherb can be eaten raw, and as they get older need to be steamed or boiled for 10 minutes. Treat the shoots like asparagus. The root can be cooked as a vegetable, added to stews. If you split the stem you can scrape out the sweet pith as a cucumber-like snack, though this can be quite astringent.. The flower stalks when in bud can be snacked upon raw and added to soups for flavour.

rosebay willowherb white rosebay

Medicine:  Peel the roots, gently pound them and use as a poultice for skin damage such as burns, sores, swellings, boils and other similar hindrances. The leaves as a tea act as a tonic for the whole system, helping digestion and inflammation, but don’t drink too much because they’re also a laxative (unless you need loosening).

Now the pink variety spreads by seeds and is thus invasive, but the white variety shown above spreads through its root system and thus is not only not invasive but considered a prize plant in a garden. I have some and they are lovely.

  • Buddleja came firstly to France and then to Britain in the 19th.Century from Western China. The last remaining bomb site has now gone, but a slide showed a buddleja growing out of the wall of a building, reminiscent of the cliffs where it thrives in Western China. Although the shrub can be invasive it has the benefit of attracting butterflies and moths, and for this reason is a welcome addition to London’s wildlife. If you go to the flickr site https://www.flickr.com/photos/brize/7653052874/  you will find a selection of ‘feral buddleia’ photos showing how the plant colonises walls, railway cuttings and even roofs and house walls that are less than well kept up.
  • The Sumatran Fleabane: First recorded in London (the first place where it was seen) in the 1980’s. Now it is a dominant plant in much of London and has invaded a large part of Southern England, including Dorset. It has greyish-green leaves and a large number of tiny white flowers.

Conyza sumatrensis is an annual herb native to North America[can be resistant to herbicides].Conyza sumatrensis

  • The Argentinean Fleabane: Conyza_bonariensisAn ‘invadee’ from South America, related to the Sumatran Fleabane..
  • Opium poppy: loves open spaces.

Opium_poppy

  • Coltsfoot: a native English plant, a real harbinger of spring, which likes to grow in cracks in concrete and is one of the most successful native plants found in central London.

 

  • Oxford Ragwort: Its distribution reflects the migration of plant species along railway lines. It grows as a native plant in Italy, especially on the lava-rich soil around Mount Etna. It was introduced in GB around the end of the 18th.Century in the Oxford Botanical Gardens and ‘escaped’ to grow in the stone walls in and around Oxford. When the railway was built in the 19th. Century it found a favourable habitat in the clinker at the side of the railway which ‘reminded’ it of the lava around Mount Etna.
  • Ratstail Fescue: likes infertile, well-drained sites and also found the railway environment favourable.

Other plants finding the railway lines a favourable environment and which have spread along the railways include:-

  •  Sticky Groundsel, which has produced a hybrid. sticky groundsel
  • ‘Little Robin’ – a geranium purpureum, similar to Herb Robert but with yellow stamens in the purple flowers. This came originally from Cornwall and the south-west, spreading to London along the railway line.

 

OUTER LONDON

Haringey : Railway Fields: David showed examples of numerous wild plants growing and previously growing in a small nature reserve (formerly a coalyard) at Green Lanes, Haringey which he was involved in developing for the London Borough of Haringey some years ago. The splendid gate to Railway Fields depicts many of the wild flowers growing there.

  • Birdsfoot Trefoil (‘Bacon & Eggs’), which needs full sun. This used to grow on the embankments of the Parkland Walk, but has now been squeezed out by stronger wild plants.
  • Common Fleabane: whose nectar-filled flowers are very attractive to butterflies.
  • Haringey Knotweed
  • Queen Anne’s Lace (referred to by Shakespeare as ‘keck’), aka the wild carrot, from which modern carrots were derived. Carrot_Queen_Annes_Lace_or_wild_carrot_roots_DP860
  • Russian Vine – very closely related to Japanese Knotweed. Along the Parkland Walk there is also a hybrid between the Russian vine and Japanese Knotweed which has only been found in a couple of other places – one in the former Czechoslovakia, where it is known as ‘The Railway Yard Knotweed’.

 

Haringey: site alongside the North Circular Road: A site which has now been developed for a Tesco store was previously full of wild plants, including Rosebay Willow Herb, Great Hairy Willow Herb, Mare’s Tail, Goat’s Beard, and Golden Dock, which had previously disappeared, not having been recorded in London since 1924.

 ‘Tottenham Marsh’ (no longer a marsh): alongside the Walthamstow Reservoir: two foreign exotic plants were shown flourishing in this area: Chinese Mugwort and Greek Dock – and a new-to-science hybrid between Chinese Mugwort and Field Mugwort, belonging to the Wormwood (artemisia) family.Artemisia_vulgaris

Highgate Cemetery: London’s cemeteries are wonderful wild flower havens and provide little fragments of unspoiled land within London with a rich and varied flora, in contrast to the surrounding countryside where habitats are usually disturbed by chemicals and farming activities. Plants shown included:-

  • Ferns: The Victorians planted many varieties of ferns in the cemeteries.

 

  • Rosebay Willow Herb: The plant used to be confined to northern England, but the London rosebay willow herb probably originated from North America’
  • Foxgloves
  •  Lesser White Plantain (Ranunculoides family) – the only surviving colony in southern England
  • Thread-leaved Crowfoot: previously not seen in London since the 1940’s, but David found it in Highgate Cemetery in the 1990’s.

 Walthamstow Nature Reserve:

  • Creeping Marshwort: This used to be more widespread but has disappeared from other parts of the country, and the only other place where it is found now is in a marsh near Oxford. marshwort

 Hampstead Heath: This has been historically the most surveyed botanical site in the world, and there is evidence that the flora has changed a lot since the sixteenth century. Because of the nature of the geology the flora is very ‘heath-like’, including European gorse, birch, and the Long-leaved Sundew.

 

I shall be writing another post later this year which looks at the importance of some of our gardens and plants wild or otherwise and wildlife in London.

2014 in review: And why you should read Tiggerrenewing!

At this time of year, WordPress and GoodReads offer their users a summary of their input for the year with lots of statistics and detail. I am going to let you have some of these statistics below but first I want to tell you why you should join my readers and ensure that by mid year I have over 1000 followers!

I know, everyone wants you to be their follower and read their blog and as WordPress is offering everyone the opportunity to blog about their site well I am sure that there will be lots of people saying ‘Follow Me’ – ‘My blog is awesome!’.

Well, I don’t promise that my blog is awesome, and I don’t blog about the stuff that seems to get lots of followers like fashion and young adult and mental health or…

So here are five reasons why you should read and follow my blog :

1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;

2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.

3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure.

4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. At last count it was some 130 plus in 2014 – see the blog to come which will give the details on them. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. See for instance the comment on PANTHEON OF THE DEAD: Greek Gods and marriage.

5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started (Dark Prayers: Natasha Mostert explains) is due later in January.

 

 So now to some details of 2014’s activity:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

There were 134 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 217 MB. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?.

Posting Patterns

In 2014, there were 60 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 231 posts. (This will increase in 2015 as I shall be retiring and also I am building up a scheduled list of created blogs to keep the flow coming, already working on February and March )

Attractions in 2014

These are the posts that got the most views in 2014.

Views of London: the Changing Landscape

Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?

The Unicorn Crisis by Jon Rosenberg: Hidden Academy book 1

Sweet strawberries: Child Actors and the Price of Fame

More about Shanghai: Bund and Rain

Some of the most popular posts were written before 2014. The writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.
I can certainly write about London more and will…. but I am not returning to Shanghai and some of the others were book reviews. I shall write more about my female heroes though and am already working on a post about women in the Great War.

Where did they come from?

70 countries in all!

Most visitors came from The United States. U.K. & Canada were not far behind.

The most commented on post in 2014 was I shall wear Purple and a Red Hat: Posts for older women? 

– hmm

Not enough written about older women on WordPress – it is dominated by the under 40s I find. I shall try and buck the trend…

Are you convinced yet? I hope so. Do come and follow me and add your comments below!

In the meantime A Happy New Year to all my current followers and thank you all for coming and reading my posts. May you continue to do so for many years to come!