Monday 12 December 2022

West London Wildlife book launch - Sat 10th Dec 2022 at Books on the Rise, Richmond

On Saturday, I found myself in Richmond at the launch of West London Wildlife, a new book detailing the history and wildlife of some of London's most important natural habitats and sites. I contributed a chapter to the book, exploring the history and ecology of  Darlands Nature reserve in Barnet. I've had a long standing love affair with Darlands, which I find magical. As a child, St Vincents school would take us there to do nature surveys etc. It was let fall into a terrible state but a trust has taken it over recently and are fundraising to reverse the years of neglect.

The launch event was at the rather wonderful Books on the Rise bookshop, well worth a visit. I bagged myself a copy of the recently published Patrick MacGoohan biography, which was an added bonus.

 There were two panels consisting of four and then three of the authors. The event was sold out which was most heartening. 

The panel members were:

Panel 1

Lisa Woodward is the General Manager for London Wetland Centre, looking after the visitors and wildlife, ably supported by an incredible team and over 200 volunteers. Lisa’s background is in charity and visitor attractions, having worked for iconic names such as Kew Gardens and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Her expertise is in commercial operations, but wildlife has a special place in her heart, and running London Wetland Centre is her dream job.

Gary Backler became a member of Friends of the River Crane Environment in 2004, a year after the charity was founded. He has been a Trustee since 2011 and became Chair in 2021. He continues to retain a focus on planning and development issues in the lower Crane valley. In 2012 he set up a programme of regular usage counts of open spaces and paths in the lower Crane, which continues to generate hard data to inform planning and investment decisions.

Wanda Bodnar is a marine geospatial data scientist. She currently works at the Thames Estuary Partnership where she applies spatial data in the context of aquatic habitat conservation, restoration and climate resilience within the Greater Thames Estuary. She also leads stand up paddleboarding (SUP) sessions at a Kew based paddleboarding club called Active360 on the upper Thames Estuary.

Philip Briggs has lived in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames all his life and developed a love of wildlife from an early age. He has volunteered at the WWT London Wetland Centre since 1998, leading wildlife walks and assisting with wildlife monitoring, particularly bats. Since 2003 he has worked for the Bat Conservation Trust where he manages the National Bat Monitoring Programme, a long-running citizen science project.

Panel 2

Susanne Masters is a botanist specializing in edible plants and their trade around the world. She works with distilleries on ingredient selection and sourcing. Susanne has run workshops and spoken about plants in beverages for organisations including the Boutique Bar Show, Royal Horticultural Society, and Chelsea Physic Garden, Author of Wild Waters and contributor to Kew's Teas, Tonics, and Tipples', she has written features for publications including the New York Times, Guardian. Her academic research on wild species in trade is listed on

Ian Alexander has been in love with nature all his life, having at various times been fascinated by lichens, birdwatching, fossils, and dragonflies. He enjoys practical conservation work, gardening, and photographing nature. He lives in Chiswick, blogs about nature, and volunteers at his local nature reserve, Gunnersbury Triangle.

Roger Tichborne - Me.

The first panel discussion was fascinating. Such events, with experts are always worth a listen. I learned of the problems of wet wipes in the environment and how they are devastatating wetland habitats. On one spot on the river Thames, there is a 1 metre deep build up. Both Lisa and Wanda were keen for us all to simply stop using them and use a more sustainable form of wipe instead. Gary contributed a fascinating passage about the River Crane, which I'd not even heard of previously. He explained how the space had been opened up and the dumped fridges removed. Phillip spoke about his work with bats. I was interested in this, as I once had a job making bat detectors for Queen Mary's College global bat survey in 1982. 

I was on the second panel. Susanne gave an interesting talk, explaining how she'd discovered how you could make money writing about subjects you are interested in. Something that had't previously occurred to her. Ian spoke about his work and his previous book. I finished up. Given that everyone was an expert of sorts, whereas I was a blogger with an interest in a local nature reserve, I spoke more about how blogging and social media can be used to bring campaigns together, something I am far more an expert in. I made sure to credit Samuel Levy , who did much of the heavy lifting for my section of the book. 

I also got to chat after to a couple of the photographers who contributed, including the rather wonderful Amanda Boardman. There are some wonderful pictures in the book.

The habitats covered in the book include  Richmond Park, Ruislip Woods, a Bushy Park, London Wetland Centre, Kew Gardens, Gunnersbury Triangle, Crane Park, Chiswick House and of course Darlands. I realised that these are areas of London that deserve some proper exploration and I will be covering them in my London Symphonies series at some point over the coming  year, exploring the area and giving my own take on them. When you think about London you think of buildings and people, but as Wanda pointed out, the River Thames is the largest open space in London. 

When Allen Ashley was in the False Dots, we recorded a song about The River Thames called "Be The River", but the event and the book made me realise that there is far more to the river. If you are interested in our environment, I'd strongly recommend buying the book, for three reasons (CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK)

1. It's a damn fine book, with some very interesting content.

2. The photo's are beautiful

3. We should support independent publishers such as Aurora Metro. 

For me personally, it was interesting writing for the book. When I blog, it is very much a stream of consciousness. For the book, I had to do the job properly, do my research, correct my grammar and spelling (thanks to my Daughter Lizzie who proof read it) and write with discipline, which is something I am not normally inclined to do, but if people have faith in me, I try and do things properly. I thank Aurora Metro for asking me. It was an honour and a privildge.

This blog runs a series called Environment Monday, where we highlight environmental issues. Contributing a chapter, attending the event and speaking to the panel has only reinforced why we must keep these issues in the public eye. And please chip in a donation for Darlands Lake conservation.

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