London is England’s capital city – and although it has over 8 million people, it also has over 8 million trees, making it officially ‘a forest’! Home to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, there’s a huge divide between rich and poor (the Grenfell Tower disaster happened in the borough of Kensington & Chelsea, home to more billionaires than most places on earth).
Having said that, most of London is a thriving melting pot of different cultures and community actions from free orchards (pick your own fruit!) to non-profit box schemes and community food banks. It’s also got one of the world’s best public transport systems – not just the tube but excellent walking and cycling routes.
London is divided into 32 boroughs (the City of London is not a borough so that’s extra). It’s also home to lots of lovely wildlife, from endangered stag beetles to red deer in Richmond Park. And native birds which of course include London pigeons in Trafalgar Square!
Two iconic symbols of London are the black can and double-decker bus. Black cabs don’t have to be black and they’re tall because when first introduced, it was so city workers would not knock their top hats off, when they rode! And double-decker buses were not always red – they used to painted different colours, to indicate where they were going. But in 1907, the London General Omnibus Company decided to paint them all red, and they’ve stayed that way ever since!
The 32 boroughs of London
The City of London is not a borough, so here are the 32 villages: (not a borough
- Barking & Dagenham
- City of Westminster
- Hammersmith & Fulham
- Kensington & Chelsea
- Tower Hamlets
- Waltham Forest
how to go car-free in London
London is a thriving city of over 8 million people, but it’s also a ‘big green park’ with more green space than most other cities on earth. It’s not always possible to go car-free (you could join a car-sharing club if you use a car now and then). But if you would like to go car-free (and it’s much easier in a city) then here are a few ideas to help.
Purchasing an Oyster Card is a good move. One card gives you travel on the Tube, bus and tram plus DLR and London Overground and most of the new Elizabeth Line along with some cable car and river bus services. There are many discounts including young children, schools (off-peak), students and people in a first year of apprenticeship (or registered unemployed and looking for work). Travel is free for older and disabled people and veterans. Holders also get discounts on Santander Cycle hire.
Taxicard offers discounted taxi travel across London if you have mobility impairments (or any trouble using public transport). To qualify, you must receive the higher mobility component Disability Living Allowance or higher rate Attendance Allowance, or be registered blind (or receive War Pension Mobility Component). If none apply, your GP can endorse your application though you may have a mobility assessment.
the wildlife of London city
Cities are not all humans and rats! All urban areas have opportunistic foxes (which have lost natural habitats – they eat rabbits and rats in nature) and endangered stag beetles (those big grubs you find in the soil are babies, so leave them alone). Reducing light pollution and glass buildings (especially lit) can help local wildlife and stop birds flying into windows. In case of help needed, find your local wildlife rescue and visit London Wildlife Protection.
London in the Wild is a wonderful guide to the wildlife hiding beyond cars, concrete, lights, noise and pollution. Discover a city teeming with over 15,000 species of flora, fungi and fauna (marsh frogs, hedgehogs, short-eared owls and dragonflies). Not just gardens and parks, London has wetlands (one’s in Hackney), woodlands and heaths. And learn about the day-to-day life of a London tube mouse!
Whether you live there or are visiting, get yourself a copy of the London National Park Map. This essential resource for nature enthusiasts lists all the parks, woodlands, playing fields, national nature reserves, rivers and lakes that contribute to London’s green space. Includes walks like the London Loop and Capital Ring, with symbols on where to swim outdoors, climb peaks, pitch a tent or go sailing! This massive map is single-sided, so good for pinning on a wall.
London Wildlife Trust is a driving force for nature conservation across the capital, with supporters and volunteers who work to protect wildlife everywhere through practical conservation work.
an opinionated guide to Eco London
An Opinionated Guide to Eco London is a wonderful guide for city-dwellers or those who commute or visit, to enjoy the capital in a sustainable way. From eating and drinking to shopping and playing, you’ll learn where to find zero-waste supermarkets, recycled clothing brands and vegan cafes that use local produce.
London is full of lovely small businesses, trying to make a difference. So go out and support them! This book shows you can still enjoy the capital, and look after the planet at the same time. Illustrated wtih original photography and short punchy reviews from expert writers.
rather splendid London walks!
Rather Splendid London Walks is a quirky and informative guide to this great city by Joolz, who is known on YouTube for his interesting tours around the place he’s lived all his life. These 20 walks pick out top sights, sounds and secret featurs that you would miss, without an expert guide on hand.
Learn about London’s finest palaces, historic houses and murky drinking dens, visit unscrupulous MPs, literary figures and stars of the stage and screen. Joolz has more tales, facts and anecdotes than you’ve had hot dinners. From Pimlico to Peckham, Holland Park to Highgate and Southward to Soho, Joolz unveils the hidden gems and fantastic follies around every corner.
I supposed I’m just a nostalgic nerd who likes pointing out weird facts and reminiscing about bygone days. Be it a house where Bob Marley recorded a video or an odd green hut where Frank Sinatra bought a sandwich, there are nuggets of information and relics around every corner.
Also read 25 weekend walks in London, the ideal guide for residents or visitors, for a meander through one of the world’s leafiest cities. Boasting 3000 public parks (from breathing spaces to secret little hiding spots), London is a green metropolis. This guide seeks out the more serene side of the city, away from the gritty city streetscape. All the routes are set within the M25 to ramble across commons, greens, parks, hills and heaths, and wander along waterways and through woods, meeting London’s lifely wildlife and unearthing endless surprises!
a London diner to help barnyard friends
Unity Diner (London) is a unique diner, as all profits help to fund their own Surge Sanctuary, giving loving homes to abuse farm animalls. Below is their vegan truffle shuffle burger made with BeSaucy mayo.
other vegan fast food chains
Neat Burger is partly funded by Lewis Hamilton and Leonard DiCaprio, and sells plant-based foods in compostable packaging.
Above is a meal from The Vurger Co (London, Manchester & Brighton). Not some big names still cook fries in the same oil as beef fat, and ‘British meat’ means nothing on welfare grounds according to Compassion in World Farming).
What the Pitta? (donor kebabs made vegan)
It’s scary how much power the big fast food chains have. The painting above is of the breathtakingly beautiful Sedona desert in Arizona. Very hot, it’s home to some of the most stunning nature and wildlife on earth. So when McDonald’s inevitably decided to build a restaurant there, it was allowed. And then had the audicity to add the world’s only ‘green arches’ instead of yellow to blend in and show how they were stewards of the planet?! How about not getting your beef from the rainforests, or investing in free-range meats?
Even Vatican City now takes $30,000 in rent to house a McDonald’s (perhaps they need to read up on the works of St Francis and St Clare of Assisi, and visit Catholic Concern for Animals, to learn why they shouldn’t be doing this).
It’s illegal to drop fast food (or any) litter, so report it to Fix My Street (councils must clear it on public land, and can serve litter abatement orders to those who don’t comply on private land). One farmer had the idea for fast food chains to put registration numbers on receipts. So those who throw burger packaging and cups out the window, get a fine in the post, just like for speeding.
Clean for Good is an ethical cleaning services company.