Here’s fine rosemary, sage and thyme

20180601_154129‘The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said’. So wrote Philip Larkin, and it was with those thoughts in mind that we recently pondered the bursting-forth of one green after another, within our little garden, this belated spring. Oak, sweet chestnut, yew and crab-apple took precedence, for once, over the feathered members of our family we fuss over more, and  foreground every day. We shall return to them, and their dramas, soon enough. But, for now, let us record the utterly serendipitous discovery of bee hives and wild flowers beneath the old Roman walls, viewed recently in the City London. History of Roman occupation, urban development and the destruction caused by the Blitz are elegantly brought to life along Noble Street with creative signage along a walk way from 20180601_153923which one can gaze down upon a colourful and verdant meadow just feet below busy offices, where movers and shakers go about their days. The exposed stones placed there by the invaders in the first century, only properly revealed when subsequent building was obliterated by German bombs, provide the aliums and ferns with warmth and cover, making a magical under-croft beneath the City workers’ feet.

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20180601_161350So much about the City, and its immediate environs to the east, is full of wonder. In a courtyard garden, nestling alongside the old graveyard of Hawksmoor’s St George-in-the-East, a stone’s throw from the Thames in Shadwell, was born a male fox who has lived his entire life there, resuming his daily rest on the corrugated roof over the patio every day, once his nightly peregrinations are done. 20180603_155225Fearless, confrontational even, all day he takes his ease, dozing among the plants, looking up on those rare occasions when he senses a stranger has noticed him, but otherwise unfazed by human activity, particularly those who have known him since he was but a cub, presented to them like a prize in his mother’s mouth. He has never come to harm here and, please God, he never will. Come winter, he wanders off now and then and shelters somewhere secret, returning after particularly icy spells to the place that he calls home. In the same way does London draw all Londoners; those who recognise and cherish its enduring and surprising power to inspire. They will cling to it like ivy, along those Roman walls.

 

Stranglers on the shore

20180404_070742The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale’s backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men.

T S Eliot makes it sound so beautiful, and so poignant, here by the relentless sea. Indeed it is but, increasingly, it is more than a repository of discarded and lost fishing tackle with a tale to tell: it is a world of plastic and the enduring legacy of umpteen needless purchases which have woven themselves into our environment, abusing it and threatening the wildlife in myriad ways.

20180329_071300Recent reports came in from the National Trust warden on the Isle of May about spotting near the coast a seal enmeshed in rope. It is not surprising at all. More extraordinary is that we see so few of the effects of the polluted sea upon the creatures within it, caught up in the twine and the balloon ribbons, choked by the plastic toys, applicators and multi-coloured nurdles.  For we, who are among the first on the shore each day, witness an ever-increasing quantity and range of stuff cast up along the shore. We are no longer surprised by what we find. Sad to say, dead guillemots defeated by the recent storms seem normal and utterly acceptable by comparison.

20180404_071211Some jetsam is more troubling than other stuff and the sheer20180404_070917 variety can be utterly baffling. Recently a shipment of fine wooden planks was cast up on the north east and Scottish coast; this chemical toilet probably came from a boat, and we took it for a boiler cover until we gained a closer look. Nothing would surprise us.

20180401_072118However, the shipwrecked oddities which once had meaning and real purpose in everyday life are part and parcel of the big weather events, are to some extent expected and, of course, are usually easily removed. Not so the blanket of plastic rubbish of all kinds which is simply enmeshed in the seaweed and dune grass. The rubbish is ubiquitous and the task of eliminating it as a threat both to wildlife and the aesthetic enjoyment of our coast is obviously Sisyphean. Several of the morning dog walkers routinely collect what they can, bringing bags for the purpose as their dogs gambol and amuse themselves nearby. It is, of course, a hopeless task but as they say, every little helps. And today, reports in the Times suggest that since the charge on single-use plastic bags was levied in British shops, there are indeed fewer in the sea around us.

Now that the holiday season is about to begin, to what there is already will be added the additional throw-aways of the tourists: the barbecues, the full nappies, the plastic water bottles, the buckets and spades, the bags full of dog pooh – so carelessly discarded. After the BBC broadcast David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II this winter, the population of these islands responded with horror when they saw the effect of plastics in the world’s oceans. Perhaps the corner is beginning to be turned. Let us hope that what we undertake really does begin to make a difference.

To learn more about nurdles, go to: https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/

To read about the Isle of May in David Steel’s blog, go to: https://isleofmaynnr.wordpress.com/author/davidsteel2015/