Friday, 17 February 2017


I bet what I am about to say will come as a surprise and it certainly surprised me: London is said to be the largest Urban Forest in the world! Aside from the great number of trees, there are also some truly tall and huge trees too. One such beauty is a Barnes wonder, and it even has a name, Barney, the giant Barne's London Plane. The fabulous Ancient Tree Hunt of London lists Barney as having an astonishing girth of 8.2m and and as one of London's oldest plane trees it may date back from 1660. The London Plane is a hybrid between two species of normally geographically isolated planes  that may have occurred in Spain or possibly in Vauhall, London. It flourished at a time when London was mired in smog and soot and the 'magic' rejuvenating bark of the plane meant these trees could survive the clogging grime. See more of the history here, and here. Here are some more great trees of London to go out and re-discover. And don't forget to pop in and say hi to Barney!

Below are some other particularly notable planes...

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Where to plant trees...!

It is great to plant trees, as the Woodland Trust will be first to tell you. But maybe not over a football pitch! (Some councils of course have other ideas....). There are lots of cool pics of trees growing in unusual or bizarre places, this has to be a winner!

Glasgow Botanics: a few wee discoveries

A quiet gathering of leaves down a drain in norht Glasgow; small moments hold your gaze when fresh in from travels afar. With a head full of trees and the riot of southern Ontario's Fall colours of last October, I flew back into Glasgow and suitably exhausted I of course.....headed straight out to the amazing Glasgow Botanics! The colours were still rich yellows and reds whereas back in Canada the leaves had burned bright and fallen oh, so quickly. Wandering about the gardens and arboretum, a favourite hobby of mine (see here, here and here) I had fun hunting out small versions of the great trees of eastern Canada I had been walking among. And it was then I realised that there were so many hidden treasures here at the arboretum. Like this muckle leaved syscamore, Acer macrophyllum, and those leaves really are big! There was some I recognized, and others I thought I did, until I read the label, like Acer rufinerve (Japan) which looked to me like the striped maple Acer pensylvanicum of North America. Eventually I had to go indoors and crawl into a bed and sleep. But I will be back soon, and I wonder what I'll find next time I really look.



 Yellow Buckeye (Eastern USA)



Barnes' wild graveyard

Barnes' old wild graveyard is a place of mystery and intrigue. There's interesting and tragic people buried under the tangle of vegetation and fine old grave stones for sure. But for me, the fascination is in the tree slow, stone grown slow green tide that overrides the works of stone masons past, in the profusion of small trees and bushes jutting up at all angles. Barnes' Cemetery or Barnes Old Cemetery, is a disused cemetery in Barnes, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. My favourite tree was this lovely pine with quietly writhing limbs, or great fingers as if from some vast hand that had erupted out from the earth. A friendly robin flitted from stone top to stone top, like a friendly guardian and I wished I'd had more time to just sit and drink in the peaceful green of the place; I'll be back!



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Perching pigeons and other birds

It was a lazy Sunday morning. We trooped up the road to a late breakfast in a smart wee cafe and wandered into town along the river, past a big London plane tree hung with great stick nests. Several of these had solitary grey sentries and from these grey heron came all kinds of unearthly utterances. We headed into town to wander the corridors and rooms of London's fantastic Natural History Museum. At one corner of the building, pigeons perched in their own wee niches on the London Underground sign. In the depths of the museum, amidst all kinds of treasures and artifacts, my eye was caught by a gem of a bird, a single stationary hummingbird of a kind we had studied out in the searing heat of the Bolivian cerrado. This dry grassland specialist has only a Scientific name, Helactin cornuta. This bird is positively tiny and so far from it's homeland and yet, it carried me back there instantly, to the heat and the buzz of tiny wings, and the incessant buzzing of sweat bees.


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Kibble at Christmas

Some cool pics of Glasgow's amazing Kibble Palace and it's inhabitants I took over Xmas. I love the tree ferns and there are some real beauties in there. Enjoy!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Rope wizardry with Remote Ropes: on the edge!

Day 2 of Advanced Rope Wizardry took us to a gleaming cliff edge and what an incredible spot it was, with superb views and lots of keen climbers nearby. We had birds of prey passing by and the gleam of a keen sun that did it's best to dull the chill of a crisp winter morning. And we also had some serious kit. Today's task was to utilise the knowledge of yesterday, by setting up all this kit to rig a gin pole right on the very lip of the cliff itself. Coastguard and Mountain Rescue crews use this technique to rescue people on stretchers up and over a cliff edge.  Now, you can get some very fancy shiny kit like this or you can set up a single pole with a whole heap of rope anchors and several score of knots. We had heaps of fun and learned lots, and each took it in turn to be lowered and hauled up the cliff using a highly complex system of pulleys and ratios. Thanks Remote Ropes!

The gin pole set up and nearly ready for go!

Our kit pool, and a selection of our anchors for the rig


A couple of shots of the amazing hovering rigging plate!