Guest blog by Rob Bushby
We’re accustomed to maps with manmade features to the fore – think road atlas, A-Z, satnav, Ordnance Survey and Google maps. These two-dimensional representations, by how they prioritise and present information, influence how we think about and use places on a daily basis. It can be a surprise to find that homes and gardens cover just 5% of the UK, or that nearly 50% of London is green and blue space.
Yes, the physical and perceived urban landscapes of our cities are predictably social and work-focused. But if they can be centres of industry, of finance, of culture, can they be centres of nature too?
Nature is often hiding in plain sight. Glasgow’s origins are as a ‘dear green place’ and its coat of arms holds a robin, oak and salmon. The River Clyde bisects the city, a dominant, prominent corridor of wildlife. Edinburgh’s topography and sense of place are defined by volcanoes; it’s where hundreds of millions of years of geological ‘deep time’ were first glimpsed. Both cities have more trees than people, 3 times more in Glasgow, and are shared habitats for thousands of plant and animal species as well as people. Place-names offer a legacy of hunters, commons, split rock, the meeting of waters, the ridge of the horse…
In urban settings we often separate ourselves from nature. It’s an ‘other’ thing, in many ways. We box it off through contemporary labelling and everyday references and rituals. The ‘best’ of it - national parks, nature reserves - is somewhere we define by a boundary and take trips to. It’s often outsourced to people, providers and programmes to introduce it, care for it and make sense of it for us. It’s put in an environment or conservation ‘sector’, a corridor, a belt.
- Where does ‘the countryside’ start and end?
- What are our ‘city limits’?
- Can a city be a landscape?
- What does nearby nature look, sound, feel, smell and taste like?
- And how does it become part of everyday lives?
Amongst a profusion of map-apps and small screen graphics it’s a big paper fold-out map, to open up for a visual meander, to gather around and delve into. It can remind residents and visitors that they don’t need to leave the city to find and experience nature.
Nature is, of course, everywhere and for everyone, even in cities. Use an Urban Nature map to find the familiar, to help put nearby nature in everyday lives.
Credits and thanks:
Urban Good and Rob Bushby have created and printed 2,000 free maps for schools, health settings, youth and community groups in each city. It’s only been possible with fantastic collaboration (in uniquely challenging circumstances) from numerous individuals with expertise and insights, and support from key funders Paths for All ‘Smarter Choices, Smarter Places’, Scottish Forestry, Glasgow City Council, Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation, Edinburgh Geological Society.
Maps are available outwith this free batch; get in touch for partnering or project options. Email: Rob Bushby