Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Nature’s Clues & Signs 3 – Soho Walkabout

A couple of weeks ago I was staying in central London for a week, mainly to record the audiobook version of my latest book, The Secret World of Weather. It is satisfying, tiring and slightly claustrophobic work. Whenever I had the opportunity, I would break out and explore the streets of Central London. Here are my favourite clues from those investigations.


Wherever we are in the world, whether we’re in the wildest, most remote regions on Earth or in the centre of a big city, it is always helpful to get to know your local landmarks. The bigger, the bolder the landmarks are, the harder they are to miss and the easier it is to navigate. The difference for natural navigators is that we have to try to train ourselves to notice the smaller, more subtle landmarks.

But it always starts by spotting the obvious. In this case, The BT Tower – for over a decade the tallest building in London – acted as a great ‘visual anchor’ as I explored this part of town. Every time I spotted it, it planted a flag in my mental map.


Everywhere I looked there were signs that cafes, bars and restaurants were doing better in the places the sun reached.

This has always been true, but it has been accentuated in London during Covid, as tables have moved outdoors in greater numbers than ever before.

This has had a strange knock-on effect. The tables have made it harder for pedestrians to walk on that side of the street. In cooler climates, like the UK, we normally see more pedestrians on the sunny side of the street. But in the street-dining Covid era, they have had to cross the street and now walk more easily on the shady side.


This poor oak is doing well to survive at all. But it has come at a cost, notice how dark the bark is.

Pollution from vehicles has left dark paint all over the bark. The closer to busy streets we get, the stronger this effect and the darker the bark appears.

MEMBER’S CONTENT: Clues 2 & 1, plus a Question and a Quirky Clue.

Available to members of the online course as part of The Collection.

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