Marianne North – Globetrotting Flower-painter

Nige pays tribute to the extraordinary Victorian spinster, globetrotter, botanist, artist and 'very wild bird', Marianne North... Tomorrow marks the birthday of the brilliant flower painter and tireless traveller Marianne North (born 1830), who, even by the standards of intrepid, globetrotting Victorian spinsters, was pretty extraordinary. In an age before jet ... Read More...

Prostitution Among Animals

The world's oldest profession might be even older than we previously thought, according to this strange Wikipedia article unearthed by the Wikiworm... A few studies have been used to promote the idea that prostitution exists within certain animal groups. Prostitution in animals was first reported in 1998 by Fiona Hunter, a researcher at the University of ... Read More...

A Walk in the Woods in Midsummer

Today is midsummer, and Professor Nick Groom turns his attention to the woods. Trees are a special part of our national identity, and they need us as much as we need them... Woods occupy a special place in the imaginative topography of England. The greenwood is the haunt and habitat of ... Read More...

The Cheerfulness of Grass

Do you hear the Spring sound of mowers humming? Stephen considers the poetic qualities of grass... I am easy to please.  All seems right with the world when, on a sunny spring day, I can hear the hum of lawnmowers from various points in the distance, and the scent of freshly-cut ... Read More...

Land of Deer (and plagiarism)

Nige on how the sight of a deer inspired a prize-winning poem which 'inspired' another prize-winning poem... We retroprogressives have long relished the fact that Britain's deer population is back up to medieval levels - but now the news gets even better: the deer population, according to the latest research, is ... Read More...

The Cuckoo and the Dragon

It's cuckoos, buck deer farts and alternative St George's day festivities this month, as Professor Nick Groom looks at the English April... What does a cuckoo sound like? Silly question: ‘cuck-oo!’ So imagine my surprise when a university lecturer confessed to me that she didn’t know and couldn’t recognize this seasonal ... Read More...

Dabbler Diary – For the birds

Saturday was Owl Day at the Speedwell Children’s Centre so we took the girls along. Bob the owl man looked like an owl. That sort of thing happens far too often to ascribe it all to coincidence, doesn’t it? Ken Livingstone looks like a newt. Same with aptronyms. Strong and ... Read More...

The Life of the Robin

Nige rediscovers a pioneering work of English natural history... The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man: 'tis the debt of our reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being beasts. Without this, the world is still as though ... Read More...