LondonLife – Lone tower…

PICTURE: Alex Motoc/Unsplash.

LondonLife – Parliamentary silhouette…

Looking across the River Thames alongside Westminster Bridge. PICTURE: Mark Haupt/Unsplash

LondonLife – Commemorating World War I at Hampton Court Palace…

Hampton Court Palace. PICTURE: David Adams

Standing with Giants, a thought-provoking art installation at Hampton Court Palace, commemorates the lives lost in World War I and II and, in particular, the Indian soldiers who resided on the palace’s estate prior to the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and again for the World War I Victory Parade in London. The work of Oxfordshire artist Dan Barton and a dedicated group of volunteers, the work – located in the East Front gardens – features 100 almost life-sized silhouettes of soldiers and 75 screen-printed poppy wreaths along with an additional 25 specially commissioned silhouettes which represent the Indian soldiers. Almost 1,800 Indian Army officers, soldiers, and civilian workers sailed from India for the World War I Victory Parade and a camp was specially created to house them in the palace grounds in what was at the time one of the largest gatherings of people from India and South-East Asia ever assembled the UK. During their stay in London, the soldiers were treated to excursions in London and across the country which included trips to the Tower of London and a Chelsea football match. Alongside the display, a special trail map has been created to allow visitors to explore other aspects of the palace’s World War I history and former residents who took on roles ranging from frontline nurses to campaigners for improved care for injured veterans. One of the most poignant contributions the palace made to the war effort was the use of wood, supplied from an oak tree felled in Hampton Court’s Home Park, for the making of the coffin for the Unknown Soldier. Can be seen until 28th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.

LondonLife – Up close with a Komodo dragon…

Dougie Poynter meets ZSL London Zoo’s dragon Ganas during The Komodo Dragon Experience. PICTURE: © ZSL

ZSL London Zoo launched its ‘Komodo Dragon Experience’ this month with McFly bassist, Dougie Poynter, getting hands-on in caring for the 13-year-old dragon Ganas. Poynter joined zookeeper Joe Capon behind the scenes at the Attenborough Komodo Dragon House and watched Capon demonstrate the 54 kilogram creature’s training routine. He then helped prepare its food before hiding the meat in holes and inside logs to allow Ganas, one of just 1,400 Komodo dragons left in the world, to use its remarkable sense of smell in obtaining its next meal. The Komodo Dragon Experience is only available twice a month. Admission charge applies. For books, head to zsl.org/the-komodo-dragon-experience.

LondonLife – Foggy morning on the Lea, East London…

PICTURE: Dan Poulton/Unsplash

LondonLife – Low tide on the Thames…

PICTURE: Gavin Allanwood/Unsplash

LondonLife – Record-breaking at Kew…

View over the Palm House at Kew Gardens. PICTURE: Oliver Needham/Unsplash

Kew Gardens was last month recognised as holding the world’s “largest collection of living plants at a single-site botanic garden” by Guinness World Records. The 320 acre site in west London, which is home to 16,900 species of plants from all over the world, is actually no stranger to Guinness World Records. Its plants include the world’s largest waterlily species – Victoria amazonica (found in the Princess of Wales Conservatory), the world’s smallest water lily species – Nymphaea thermarum (also found in the conservatory) and the plant with the world’s tallest bloom – the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) which also holds the record as the world’s smelliest plant. In 2020, Kew was also home to the world’s longest Nepenthes plant trap which measured 43 centimetres from the base to the lid. For more on Kew, head to www.kew.org.

LondonLife – Moonlit night…

Moonlit night over London. PICTURE: Federico Di Dio photography/Unsplash

LondonLife – 5,000 haikus take flight…

PICTURE: RBG Kew

One Thousand Springs, an artwork by internationally renowned artist Chiharu Shiota, is the centrepiece of the Japan festival taking place at Kew Gardens in west London. The work features 5,000 haikus submitted by members of the public which have been suspended on red threads in the Victorian-era Temperate House. Says Shiota: “The Japanese language was formed by a culture that cherishes the natural world. Many cultural practices like ikebana, bonsai and hanami are based on the contemplation and enjoyment of nature. For One Thousand Springs I chose to focus on the haiku. The traditional haiku mentions one of the seasons and many haikus are based on observations in nature.” The installation can be seen throughout the month-long festival along with horticultural displays including a specially commissioned Chalk Garden, a contemporary response to a Japanese garden showcasing native plants including grasses, shrubs and trees. For more on the festival, including after hours events, see www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/festival-japan.

LondonLife – Balloon over Chelsea…

PICTURE: James Langley/Unsplash.

LondonLife – Beauty in stone…

Detail from the Natural History Museum interior, South Kensington. PICTURE: Diane Picchiottino/Unsplash

LondonLife – Wildlife snapshots…

Lynx on the threshold. PICTURE: © Sergio Marijuán, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A selection of entries into this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year have been released ahead of the opening of the annual exhibition at the Natural History Museum in October. Among the images selected from the more than 50,000 entries in the 57th competition is that of Sergio Marijuán’s Lynx on the threshold depicting a young Iberian lynx pausing in the doorway of the abandoned hayloft where it was raised in Sierra Morena in Spain (pictured above), Gil Wizen’s Beautiful bloodsucker depicting a female ornamented mosquito in the process of biting (below), and Laurent Ballesta’s Deep feelers showing a vibrant community of narwhal shrimps in deep waters off the French Mediterranean coast (far below). The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 12th October. The exhibition at the South Kensington museum opens on 15th October at the Natural History Museum. To book tickets for the exhibition, head to www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.html. The 2021 competition opens on 18th October.

Beautiful bloodsucker PICTURE: © Gil Wizen, Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Deep feelers. PICTURE: © Laurent Ballesta, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

LondonLife – A weigh-in for all creatures great and small…

Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys are weighed at ZSL London Zoo PICTURE: © ZSL

Last week saw the annual weigh-in of animals at ZSL London Zoo and all creatures great and small took part – from the Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys (pictured above) to the giant Galapagos tortoises and the tiny midwife toads (both pictured below). With more than 20,000 animals in the care of the zoo, the keepers spend hours through the year recording the heights and weights of all the animals. It’s an important task – the information aids them in monitoring the health and wellbeing of all those in the zoo. “It helps to ensure that every animal we look after is healthy, eating well, and growing at the rate they should – weight is a particularly important indicator of health and wellbeing,” says the zoo’s animal manager Angela Ryan. “A growing waistline can also help us to detect and monitor pregnancies, which is so important as many of the species at ZSL London Zoo are threatened and part of international breeding programmes, including today’s Asiatic lions and big-headed turtles. By sharing information with other zoos and conservationists worldwide, we can all use this knowledge to better care for the species we’re striving to protect.” For more, see www.zsl.org.

Joe Capon and Charlotte Ellis weight Polly the Galapagos tortoise at ZSL London Zoo. PICTURE: © ZSL
Unnar Aervarsson weighs a midwife toad at ZSL London Zoo PICTURE: © ZSL

LondonLife – Changing of the Guard returns…

The full Changing of the Guard ceremony returned to Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and the Tower of London on Monday after the longest pause in its taking place since World War II. The ceremony, usually a popular tourist drawcard, had been absent from London since March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to the ceremonial duty was carried out by the Number 3 Company from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards based in Windsor, accompanied by the Band of The Coldstream Guards. PICTURES: Sergeant Donald C Todd, RLC (UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021/published under the MOD News Licence).

LondonLife – A lion in Piccadilly Circus…

PICTURE: Kevin Grieve/Unsplash

One of the 27 life-sized lion sculptures placed in central London to raise awareness and funds to support community conservation and livelihoods across Africa impacted by COVID-19. Each of the lions has been decorated by decorated by famous artists, musicians and comedians (this one by rock star Ronnie Wood and named ‘Not Lying Lion’). The Lion Trail, which is also part of the City of Westminster’s ‘Inside Out festival’, is delivered by wildlife conservation charity Tusk and supported by Art of London. The lions can be see until 26th September. For more, see www.tuskliontrail.com/london-pride/

LondonLife – Shared experiences…

Julietta and her artwork which is among those in the exhibition..

Works by young Londoners depicting their COVID-19 experiences as well as their feelings in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have gone on show in an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery and online. A Westminster City Council project, called Creative Collective, asked young people to produce works in any medium – audio clips, short films, poems, paintings, drawings, statements or digital works – responding to themes including lockdown, resilience and hope, community and Black Lives Matter. The results, which have previously been on display at libraries across Westminster, can now be viewed until 31st August at in the Learning Gallery at the Saatchi Gallery as part of the JR Chronicles Exhibition. The display is also available to see online here. The project is the work of the council’s cultural youth engagement programme – City Lions – in partnership with children’s services, local schools, professional artists, libraries and archives.

LondonLife – Lost ‘garden snug’ recreated at Red House…

The new garden snug with the Red House in the background. PICTURE: © National Trust/Chris Davies

A lost ‘garden snug’ has been recreated at 19th century designer William Morris’ Arts & Crafts home, Red House, in Bexleyheath. Inspired by the original notes of architect Philip Webb, the design draws on an ordnance survey map from when Morris and his family were residents at the house between 1860-1865 which shows outdoor spaces separated into different ‘rooms’. Photos of the garden from the 1890s were also used to guide the project. The 100 square metre garden is enclosed with traditional hazel and hawthorn and the planting inside its bounds references some iconic Morris & Co designs like ‘Trellis’, ‘Daisy’ and ‘Fruit’. At the centre is a Tibetan cherry (Prunus serrula) and the garden also features traditional cottage plants like Shasta daisies, columbines, honeysuckle, irises, peonies, jasmine and mock orange. Around the central tree are specially commissioned wooden seats from Scottish craftsman Angus Ross with distinctive two-metre high arches designed to echo the house’s medieval-inspired architecture. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/red-house.

The Red House and lawn seen from the south east. PICTURE: © National Trust/Andrew Butler.

LondonLife – Kayaking at Canary Wharf…

PICTURE: Evgeny Klimenchenko/Unsplash

LondonLife – Exploring Buckingham Palace’s gardens…

The garden at Buckingham Palace in spring. PICTURE: John Campbell (Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021.)

The historic 39 acre garden at Buckingham Palace opened to the public for the first time last Friday as part of the palace’s summer opening. Visitors can follow a route that takes in the 156-metre Herbaceous Border, plane trees which were planted by and named for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and views of the island and its beehives across the 3.5-acre lake. There’s also the opportunity to enjoy a picnic on the lawns and guided tours of the south-west of the garden with features including the Rose Garden, summer house and wildflower meadow. The current landscape dates back to the 1820s when King George IV turned Buckingham House into a place. It features more than 1,000 trees, the National Collection of Mulberry Trees (mulberry trees were first planted by King James I in 1608), 320 different wildflowers and grasses, and, since 2008, five beehives. The Queen traditionally hosts three garden parties in the gardens annually which are each attended by 8,000 guests, who consume around 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake. The gardens are open until 19th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rct.uk.

A curving path leading past the Magnolia Dell to the Rose Garden. PICTURE: John Campbell (Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021.)
The Rose Garden and summer house can be seen as part of guided tours. PICTURE: John Campbell ( Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021.)
Spring flowers in the Buckingham Palace garden. PICTURE:John Campbell (Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021.)

LondonLife – The Queen awards the George Cross to the NHS…

Queen Elizabeth II has awarded the George Cross – the country’s highest civilian gallantry award – to the National Health Service. In an accompanying statement, the Queen said: “It is with great pleasure, on behalf of a grateful nation, that I award the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom. This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations. Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service. You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation.” Details of when the award will be presented are yet to be announced. It is only the third time, the George Cross has been awarded to a collective body, country or organisation, rather than an individual (the first time was when it was collectively awarded to the people of Malta in 1942 by Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, and the second time when it was awarded to the Royal Ulster Constabulary by the Queen in 1999). PICTURE: Nicolas J Leclercq/Unsplash