Ruskin said (and I’m not sure I would have liked the man himself if we had met, but he had some good points) that drawing makes us understand the world around us more. Only through drawing person can really get into core of things and if there is a one skill I like to master – it’s drawing.
I’ve always loved watercolour as a medium and as I was yearning for a break from screens, initially decided to use it for the initial sketch. But as I enjoyed the whole process so much I decided to take a leap and make the whole graphic with watercolour illustrations! 🙌
My next step was to draw and paint the leaves in a notebook. I used the internet as reference for my secondary research. It’s also a quicker method than going out and finding all the leaves.. although this would make a great project! Drawing and sketching 25 leaves from reference took me a day.
I also decided not to take an easy route and use a digital font, but to handwrite tree names in the notebook as well. As I rarely write any more I had to do some practice runs, but quite happy with the final result.
All my ‘pieces’ ready I digitalised the artwork and put everything together in graphic’s software, trying to keep the colours close to original. It took some fiddling to get it right, but finally here it is – the watercolour illustrated nature graphic of common tree leaves. 🎨
World map of tree types is crafted from data of more than 60 000 species recorded in the Botanic Gardens Conservation International database of all known tree spaces. The database is fluid and evolves as new information is recorded. I accessed the information on 22/09/2019 and although an attempt is made to include all the species on the graphic, some were excluded to achieve the aesthetic effect.
Working with more than 60 000 entries on the graphic has its own challenges that first involved cleaning up the data and converting it into importable text. Once I had the whopping 260 pages thread text file I placed it into graphics software on top of the contour of the world map and formatted as best as I could.. which was a slow going.
With font size of 12 pt a printed out version of this densely knitted type map would be legible covering about 3 metres by 2,5 metres wall…… Luckily the magic of digital version allows to zoom in the data to look for single entries! 💫
Londoners have always been innovative with introducing new species and some of the trees and wildlife now taken granted in London are actually, on the timeline of natural history, quite new. Some introduced species become naturalised and we tend to forget they actually have foreign origins. And then there are new ‘invasive’ species who also have found home in London.
The timeline does not include all non-native species (very far from it!), but a tiny selection to illustrate when different species have arrived and became part of the city. Personally I think they enrich London and make it more interesting and vibrant place, but everyone are welcome to their own opinion. 😊
Non-native species now settled in London
Apple Now naturalised fruit tree in UK is actually from Asia and was first cultivated in Britain by Romans. It’s likely apple has been grown in London since its foundation, nearly 2000 years ago!
Fallow Deer Fallow Deer are also introduced to Europe from Asia and were first brought to UK around 11 century by Normans. It’s now become a common deer in UK and London parks alongside the red deer.
Rabbit Yes, rabbit also travelled to Britain from mainland Europe with Normans. Now widespread in UK and London parks, the rabbit hasn’t been around for longer than 800 years!
Sycamore Now naturalised tree from mainland Europe was introduced around middle ages, more than 500 years ago and is now a common tree of London’s urban forest.
Horse Chestnut Horse Chestnut is actually from Turkey and was brought to UK on late 16th century. It’s another loved non-native tree that has found a home on London streets and in parks.
London Plane One of the most common street trees in London was introduced from Spain in 17th century, but this hardy urbanised tree is actually a hybrid of oriental and American plane.
Great White Pelican The pelican has been around in St James’s Park since 1664 when first birds were gifted to London by ambassador from Russia. 40 pelicans have since lived in the park (corrected).
Weeping Willow This willow is native in Northern China and was first seen in London in 1700s. It’s often found near ponds, rivers and canals thanks to its dramatic drooping branches.
Canada Goose A native in North-America this large goose has been around for around 300 years, spread widely on 20th century and is now the most common goose around London park lakes.
Egyptian Goose This African native has been an ornamental bird since 18th century, but made an escape and has now made a permanent home of London parks mainly because of the milder winters.
Grey Squirrel The most known London species of non-natives has been running wild in London since 1870s. Originally a guest from North-America the Grey Squirrel has taken over London and most of the country.
Little Owl Brought over from Europe in late 1880s little owl is now quite common in England and Wales and can be spotted hunting in leafier parts of London urban forrest.
Mandarin Duck This colourful bird from Far East was also part of the ornamental waterfowl before breaking into freedom in 20th century and now living freely on London park lakes.
Ring-Necked Parakeet The only resident parrot in UK is originally from Africa and Asia. First spotted in London nearly half a century ago it settled permanently in over last few decades.
Unofficial London Greenground Map is expanded Park Connection Map covering more green and blue ground across Greater London. The focus of the experimental map is to connect parks and open spaces into one walkable and cyclable network. This is an independent creative project that started from an idea to propose an accessible map that would help navigating London via parks and waterways.
The third version of the map has two more river lines – Crane and Wandle, connecting parks along the river banks. The long distant LOOP line is based on a real TFL London LOOP walking trail, a 150 mile (242 km) circular walk around London that includes many open spaces and in some sections runs along the rivers and canals. I have also added bird watching places and viewpoints.
As the map grows the legibility also grows more complicated. The new map has around 300 parks and open spaces that is 10% of the 3000 parks and green spaces of London. It is now obvious it’s not practical (or even possible) to include all green spaces to one legible map, but the further development could see one large map with main open spaces and smaller area maps with local park connections.
My map also does not take account specific street conditions and may not suggest the best walking or cycling routes. The map does not suggest specific streets as it assumes every park or open space does have a reasonably walkable street to the park next to it. Some of the paths are recognised trails, but part of the fun for me was also to suggest made up lines, that does not currently exist.
The main goal of the Greenground map is to look at London from the different point of view, inspiring Londoners to see connections between parks and making up their own walks and cycle loops for recreation and commute. London is a green city and walking from park to park or by the river or canal path could be the best part of everyone’s day.
I very much hope this map could become reality in London transport system one day! 🤞