Here’s something that I read at a charity event in support of A New Leaf, who do incredible work towards greening the centre of Manchester, I tried to write in the style of an eminent Victorian Lady Botanist (if I had more time or brains I would give you a specific name) and in this guise, imagine what she would discover on a journey across the city.
Field Study – An Exploration of Shudehill to Cornbrook, April 9th, 2018-04-09
Weather: Cloudy, inclement showers. I ascend the tram at Shudehill, a place which seems to be a bustling interchange. My first green sighting: a Broadfoot Plantain (Plantago Major) insinuating its way out between two paving slabs beside a small peach doily of vomit which itself lies in front of the ticket machine, as if waiting its turn to purchase passage to Crumpsall or East Didsbury. I am shocked – was the vomiter unaware as to the supreme medicinal qualities of Plantago Major? If they were, they may have avoided such a distressing and public ejaculation. I journey past the pile: A large, stately bush of Rubus Fruticosus Aggregate, enmeshed in a merry dance with Leontodon Autumnalis and Glechoma Hederacea resides spreadeagled behind a wire fence. I am pleased to see that it is being protected in this way.
I traverse the road and continue towards the eponymous Market Street, a semi formalised trading post, consisting of established stalls selling goods such as communication devices, shoes and something referred to as ‘sportswear’. But I digress, perhaps because there are so few green sightings here until – Oh wonder! And I would invite all botanical enthusiasts to lift their inquiring gaze up away from potential terranean treasures and seek new bounty from the heavens above! On the roof of a somewhat brutish building I see a whole shrub, Ligustrum Vulgare. It is mostly leafless and squat, I must confess, yet it is beautiful and unexpected and it reminds me of my own dear mother at my wedding, wearing the most artful concoction of feathers and netting atop her stern, square, naturally inscrutable face.
So there is nature in the city and it moves me.
Further along, I come to the city’s rich green centre piece – Picadilly Gardens. Perhaps it is the season and weather (remaining cloudy and inclement) but there is little of the conventional sense of garden to its presentation. There are trees – bare or brown leaved, there are trees -scattered about, like sobre guests at a drunken party, their feet in concrete. As to their genus I am confounded. They defy identification! Is it the lack of foliage that leaves me nonplussed? I request clarification from five different passers by and the responses are enlightening as to the nature of the denizens of Picadilly Gardens but irrelevant to my enquiry. I will write to the council when I return to my lodging. I can be sure of a prompt reply.
Exhausted and in need of succour, I return to the tram and continue my perambulation through this elusive city. I’m ashamed to admit that I am in the doldrums, and in a fit of absolute despair I almost slam closed my encyclopedia of trees (travel edition) – when I see it. White blossom in the gardens of the Art Gallery! The glimpse is fleeting, but whose heart does not quicken at the sight of Purnus Serulata! And in full bloom – nary a petal discarded! I experience the same wonder upon every sighting – it’s transience reminds me again of my own dear mother and I remind myself again to find such wonder in all living things for we, and they, are but passing through.
I am still musing on this as we reach the river, and it gives me, as rivers often do, renewed pause for reflection. I re-open my notebook to record my observations;
Salix Sepulcralis – two fine example genuflecting at a bend in the water
A bridge – one side, framed in Ipomoea Alba, the other Hedera Helix. A fabulous, verdant conjunction.
And then crowding the far side of the bank, a battalion of fluttering Narcissus Poeticus, craning their necks for better view of the joggers and prams and canal watchers who are out in force on this full and vibrant day!
Nature in its diverse forms and richness has revived my spirit and I arrive at my destination fortified, as demonstrated by the wild flourish with which I close my notebook and nod with firm cheer at my fellow commuters. As I exeunt, I mark a crowd of Budleia pushing and jostling at the sides of the tracks. Nature’s lonely trainspotter. Their flowers are brown and crusted and the leaves are shrivelled and the weather remains cloudy and inclement and yet it prevails and we prevail and will no doubt, revive. Such is the nature of the city.