Yesterday I spent the day in London. It was the first time I’d been there since late February/early March 2020. Since then a lot has changed. I’ve changed. Whilst most of my day was spent working in an office, I did take the opportunity to walk whenever I could (I’ve always tried to do that in London anyway). This time though felt different.
When I walk through London I always used to feel I was on a mission. It was about getting to desired location as quickly as I possibly could, avoiding crowds/people where possible. When I was about 12 years old my uncle gave me a London A-Z – he told me that this was a city I was going to need to know my way around. Straight out of University, twenty years ago this summer, I moved to London and quickly learnt the back streets and cut throughs to avoid the main thoroughfares. I take buses rather than tubes so I can better understand the lay of the land above ground and get my bearings easier. Whilst I do pay attention to where I am in terms of being able to navigate my way around – until yesterday when I walked across London, I didn’t feel that I really stopped to notice.
In 2019 London was declared as the first National Park City in the world. It does have a lot of green space. In addition to the larger expanses of green like Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common, Clapham Common and Hyde Park, there are lots of smaller green spaces too. Tiny courtyard gardens, private squares, balconies, hanging baskets, lawns and living walls. It was these smaller spaces that really struck me yesterday. Roads, like The Cut, that I used to walk along every day when I worked in London came alive through the plants on balconies and windowsills.
Lunchtime, as usual for me, was spent walking. Seeing the tall tower of the Tate Modern ahead of me, I weaved my way through the streets towards the river. Rather than take a straight route along a main road, I opted for the back streets, through a housing estate where I found yet more hidden pockets of green. As I reached the South Bank of the River Thames the sun was shining and the sky was blue – yet I sat in the shade of the trees, welcoming their company like an old friend.
When it came to home time I walked across London, from Southwark to Victoria to get a train home. The walk, or at least the way I went, took my through one of my favourite London parks, St James’s. The lake is always full of birdlife – some resident and others just passing through. Birds aren’t the only wildlife in the park.
As the sun went down behind Buckingham Palace my day in the urban jungle came to an end. I’m excited to go back again, to wander more at my leisure around the lesser seen green pockets of the big city I once called home. Nature therapy doesn’t mean you have to be out in the wilderness. Nature is everywhere, it’s both in us and around us.
Invitation: wander around the town or city where you live. I wonder whether you’ll find hidden pockets of green?
If you feel moved to take this invitation, I invite you to share what you are noticing below.