“You can learn more about the human condition in a voyage along the Thames than on any long journey over the oceans of the world” – Peter Ackroyd¹
Whether you’re a Londoner by birth or by inclination (or even not at all), there is no denying that there is something special about the River Thames; something powerful that describes and defines this city (and beyond) in a way that nothing else can.
I was born in a west London suburb not far from the river, and grew into adulthood at various locations along the winding path of the Thames; all of which probably goes a long way towards explaining my continuing fascination with it.
The Thames inspires. Like so many before me, I’m creatively inspired by its sheer size and power and beauty – and by its profoundly ancient presence, a presence that almost borders on a sentience. It comes as no surprise, then, to hear that there have been countless myths, legends and ghost stories associated with the Thames since time immemorial. The river is a place of mystery and natural power.
Recently, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village in west London. This fascinating project aims to create a sustainable community garden on an acre or so of derelict urban land which has been the subject of a now decades-old planning wrangle between the prospective developer, local residents and the borough council.
Sitting empty, unused and unloved on the banks of the Thames for almost two decades, the site was soon taken over by Mother Nature, and the eco-village is now home to an amazing array of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, ladybirds, foxes, a rare type of biting spider (!), as well as several neighbourhood cats who have obviously viewed the site as their very own private feline fiefdom for almost as long as it has been derelict.
I first visited the eco-village back in the summer, when the whole area was covered in the familiar pink of patches of rosebay willow-herb and the vivid purples of newly-seeded buddliea bushes, as well as any number of other, more curious and less common plants and herbs – all of which attract wildlife of all kinds, even on such a resolutely urban patch of land as this.
However, despite the fact that they are becoming more and more common in urban areas, and that the eco-village provides an ideal habitat for them, there is one species I have yet to see there – bats.
Everyone has their favourite animals, and bats are definitely one of mine. Not only are they remarkably cute little creatures (they are, honestly!), but they also play a crucial part in the maintainance of a green and healthy environment, which makes them doubly cool in my eyes. They really are extraordinary – and extraordinarily important – animals.
So here are a few fascinating Bat Facts to explain precisely why that is…