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Where to see seals and dolphins in London

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London Zoo has created a map with all recent sightings of seals and dolphins along the Thames.

Many of these sightings have been reported by ordinary people and if you see seals or dolphins along the Thames you can report them here. If you think seeing a dolphin is a rare thing, you are quite mistaken, dolphins often make their way to central London.

Don’t forget that the River Thames up to Teddington Dock is tidal and also has salt water. Seeing animals such as dolphins and even whales is not a rare thing. As for seals in 2020 alone, 467 seals have been sighted and the farthest from the estuary were at Hampton Court. Whales are less common and are often in great trouble when they come to the Thames.

Worked in many sectors including recruitment and marketing. Lucky to have found a soulmate who was then taken far too soon. No intention of moving on and definitely not moving to Thailand for the foreseeable future. Might move forward. Owned by a cat.

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Nature

The mystery of the cheetah in London

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In July 1963, a truck driver clearly saw a big cat at the top of Shooters Hill. He called the police and they arrived in large numbers, apparently there were 26 cars and over 100 policemen. They did not see any animals but only traces that could have been those of a cheetah.

A few weeks later someone heard a roar and once again dozens of policemen came and found nothing.

In the following years until 1966 there were other sightings and the press promptly took interest in the case, once again no cheetah or tiger or lion were found.

For years then no one saw anything, so even if the cheetah existed it must have died or moved elsewhere. In 2002 a huge cat was again seen in Shooters Hill. Since then no more sightings.

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The First Flower of Spring – The Snowdrop

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Probably if you live in the British Isles, you will have had your first sight of snowdrops this year, either growing in a garden by design, or even more magically, growing wild in woodlands or in hedgerows.  The Snowdrop is the first flower to bloom at the end of winter and at the beginning of Spring. 

The season is between January to March and the flower is built to withstand freezing temperatures. It has three inner petals protected by three outer petals. The head will drop in freezing weather and reopen when the weather warms up. 

 

There are many varieties of Snowdrop, which are spread by bulb division and so do not depend upon pollination for reproduction.  Surprisingly it is a member of the Amaryllis family. The Amaryllis will grow by leaps and bounds, up to a height of between twelve and twenty inches, producing a brilliantly coloured flower at the top of its stem.
 
By contrast, the Snowdrop is a small plant, delicate in appearance, growing to between three and six inches in height. The colour is white, symbolising purity and hope at the start of a New Year. This wild flower is not native to Britain, and was brought over from Europe by the Romans. It was not recognised by botanists as a wild flower until the eighteen century. 
 
 The bulb itself is poisonous and so has never been a source of nutrition. You might think it unlikely that any bulb would be eaten and of course bulbs are not found on the menu, other than in extreme circumstances. Such an occasion arose in the Netherlands in 1944/45 during the Second World War. The people enduring famine, were reduced to eating tulip bulbs, which while unappetising were very nutritious. 
 
The Snowdrop bulb however, by producing its flower, provides only nourishment for the spirit. Snowdrops provide food for thought at the start of a New Year.

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Why is the London plane tree so special?

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You might not know that the London plane tree is a species in itself. They are in fact called Platanus x acerifolia and are probably a cross between the oriental plane tree and the sycamore tree.

Now about half of London’s trees are plane trees. It was planted in large numbers in the 1800s during the Industrial Revolution when, due to smog, many more trees could not survive. Now it’s a tree so widespread that we don’t even notice it.

In London these trees can reach a height of 35 meters, but if grown in the countryside they reach 45 meters.The beauty of this species of tree is that it is completely adapted to the London climate, it does not suffer from pollution or lack of space.

It has been known for at least a couple of centuries and no London plane trees are known to have died of old age, so no one can say how long they can live.

Take a look at the bark of the London plane tree for example, you can see that it is patchy, but if you get closer you will see that they are pieces of bark coming off. This is a way for the tree to eliminate smog, pollution and toxic substances that have settled there. And perhaps one of the reasons why it manages to live well in London.

A famous London Plane is in Brunswick Square

To see a great example of London’s plane tree, go to Brunswick Square in Bloomsbury / Camden. A tree probably planted at the time of Jane Austen, late 1700s or early 1800s. It is also particular because unlike other city trees it has not been continuously pruned and therefore has low branches. It has a different shape from that of other plane trees in London.

 

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