In 2011 I started a photographic invertebrate study of ‘an insignificant park in London’. I was interested in what I would find in a small urban park. I chose Warwick Gardens in Peckham as it was close to my home and I could pop there for a couple of hours each day. The mission was to photograph everything that moved.
Warwick Gardens is popular with local residents. It has a childrens playground and a dog-free zone with a young orchard, a log circle, picnic benches, a small football and basketball pitch and table tennis tables. The rest of the park is space for dogs to run around.
The habitat turned out to be better than envisaged – the park is flanked by a railway line and gardens, with ash, hawthorn, hornbeam, horse chestnut and silver birch trees dotted around. The council has allowed the borders to go wild with barley grass, thistles, nettles, green alkanet, comfrey and black horehound; plants like ivy, rose and bramble overflow from the gardens alongside sycamore, hazel and lilac. Much of the grass is punctuated with yarrow and ragwort. In 2014 the council planted an ‘edible hedge’ on the rail side of the park. Among the chosen plants are cherry plum, hazel, crab apple, wild pear, blackthorn, field maple, hawthorn, honeysuckle and gooseberry. As this develops it will be interesting to see what insects will colonise it.
I have spent every possible day crouched in the bushes with my camera uncovering a plethora of insect life. I have found butterflies, barkflies, bugs, more bees and wasps than I can name and a leafhopper that turned out to be the first recorded sighting in the UK.
Over the years I have gained an intimate knowledge of life in the park. I know where to find the shield bugs, where the fruit flies like to hang out, the tiny blue chalcid wasp that appears in summer everyday at midday on a particular rose bush, and I have become absorbed in their personalities.
I have witnessed speckled bush-crickets mature from nymphs to adults, observed the life-cycles of spiders, watched wool-carder bees patrolling their patch of nettles, and grinned at the dive-bombing antics of German wasps. And as the seasons progress the change in the flora and the insects that appear and disappear is a delight.
All my sightings are sent to Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) to add to the map of wildlife in London.
In 2012 Warwick Gardens was awarded a Green Flag. It has also become a place where ‘interesting species’ are found…. in the words of an entomologist at the Natural History Museum “yet another interesting find for Warwick Gardens” when I post my photos on Flickr. This ‘insignificant park in London’ has become significant. Marvellous!
I pick up the story nearly 3 years and 460 species later….