The Crow

The Crow | Illustration: Lesley Scoble

The Crow knows I know he knows he knows he crows.

Lesley Scoble

The Crow rhyme (if you can call it a rhyme at all!) is the shortest one I’ve ever written (there’s always something to be grateful for!). I suppose one might call it a ‘nonsense rhyme’ but it’s not. When I came across this crow in the *Fred Cleary Garden, London, I knew he knew I knew he knew.
Oh dear, is lockdown getting to me? I haven’t been talking to a lot of people these days. I’m now imagining talking to crows. The worst part about this is I really want to join in a conversation with them.

The crow language is one that I would dearly love to understand. I can listen to them crowing away and I know that they are saying something of utmost interest. The crow is a most intelligent bird. He is a corvid and knows an awful lot. In fact, they have a lot to ‘crow about’. They are fearless and clever.

Corvus Corone (Corvidae)

The Latin name Corvus Corone is the scientific nomenclature assigned by William Elford Leach to the crow, a title member of the Crow Family, aka Corvidae.

Dr Leach MD FRS (1791-1836) was a young assistant librarian/keeper at the Natural History department of the British Museum and updated innumerable species into the scientific classifications we all know and love today.

30 sec time lapse video of drawing

If you fancy watching a brief vid of The Crow iPad drawing in progress click here!

Fred Cleary Garden

The Fred Cleary garden near St Paul’s is where I met the crow.

The garden is at Huggin Hill (off Great Victoria Street) in London. Back in the year 1260 it was called Hoggene Lane. Hoggene is an old English word meaning ‘where hogs are’. Not a lot of hogs to be seen hereabouts these days!

There is a little passageway that runs alongside the garden going downhill towards the Thames. In 1964, excavation on this site revealed archeology of expansive Roman Baths in the area. There was evidence that they were dug into the terraces down the hill to the river. Imagine a terrace of Baths! The local spring would flow down to bathe Romans in natural mineral water. Who needs Evian? When you can have Eau de le Bank of the Thames? Those Romans knew how to live!

Where is the spring flowing now, I wonder? It would add to the Fred Cleary garden, no end! As it does lack a water feature.

During the Blitz in WWII, the buildings that stood here were bombed and destroyed. The bomb site survived being rebuilt upon and remained derelict until the 1970s/80s when Fred Cleary worked his magic and shaped the space into the garden where the crow can sit and chat to people like me today.

Flowers bloom in old wall remains on the bomb site | Photo: Lesley Scoble

This tiny green space is on one of my lockdown exercise walks and a regular ‘pause for a minute’ place. A quiet spot which in normal times would be full of city workers taking a moment away from the office, eating sandwiches. But right now, because of lockdown, it is quite empty of humans. And a place to say hello to a crow sitting on a branch and to look at the odd flower or two that are still blooming even though it’s winter. A small open space amid city buildings where it’s possible to connect a little with nature.

A place to look at the odd flower or two that are still blooming even though it’s winter

  • Geranium nodosum (Geraniaceae) or Knotted cranesbill
  • Flowering wild rose in winter (don’t know name of)
  • Mauve flowers in an old wall (I used to know the name of this plant!)
  • Seeds of the Iris foetidissima or Roast-beef plant

All botanical photos by me.

Connecting with nature

The realisation of how important it is to connect with nature has dawned on many of us during lockdown. Even to those of us who may not, ere now, have given it much thought.

To take nature for granted is a luxury we can no longer afford. Our natural world is on a precipice. Without nature our planet will be an uninhabitable desolate lonely place.

City wildlife gardens

I live close to a city wildlife garden but access to it is private. The Barbican Wildlife Garden has proved that by planting some wildflowers, providing a couple of ponds and adding a few trees and shrubs, wildlife will come. The calm and pleasure that this tiny green space gives to the residents is priceless. A sanctuary providing a sense of well-being is something for which the volunteers managing it should be mighty proud.

The hide, Barbican Wildlife Garden | Photo: Lesley Scoble

But the garden is private. How wonderful it would be if we could have wildlife gardens for all who live in towns and cities? A wildlife garden on every urban estate! This will not only help nature and encourage wildlife, but will help us too. We need more wildlife gardens! Everywhere!

A glimpse of a young fox in the Barbican Wildlife Garden | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Regarding our cities today—I think we could do with another Fred Cleary to increase wildlife open spaces in the City. A tiny private plot in the Barbican is not enough!

London needs a present day Fred Cleary

What we need is an equivalent exponent—a modern day wildlife version of Fred Cleary! Is there someone out there ready to take up his trowel? A lover of nature with the same tireless passion? Capable of increasing ‘wildlife’ open spaces within today’s concreted urban environments?
Where is our today’s *Flowering Fred Cleary? A new Fred to take on our present green space challenges and repeat the success of this chartered surveyor! Managing through his tenacity, to create green and restful places in the metropolis for city folk to enjoy. 

Any small open space allotted to nature can only serve in improving our mental state and help both humans and wildlife to thrive.

Memorial plaque to Fred Cleary | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Who is going to be London’s next Fred Cleary? I wonder?

I will go and ask the crow.

The crow knows you know you know!

Take care and keep safe 🙂

*Fred Cleary wrote two books The Flowering City (1969) and Beauty and the Borough (1970). The publications earned him the affectionate nickname Flowering Fred.

For more information about Fred Cleary visit the Fred Cleary Foundation

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