These pieces of Thumbnail Nature writing are the output from a pair of hour-long nature-writing workshops in which we wrote about urban nature journeys and talked about creating rhythm in our writing. Enjoy!

Amanda Tuke – workshop leader

[I took the heading photo of the Grey Heron in Bushy Park, West London]


Urban Jungle

Rogue branches lopped by council order, the trees’ pale amputations gleam in the slurried February light. Moss hunkers in tarmac cracks and crisped mind-your-own-business forms coconut-matting underfoot. Two magpies croak harsh songs and play musical chairs along the street, blue tail feathers flashing like underwear amid the monochrome.

Julie Hayman


Along narrow streets the bus chugs

Outside seeps in

Watery windows fogged, no news beyond.

Then looming, sharp, bare fingers

Dark overhang, leaning, grabbing

The shriek, long, piercing

Nails on a chalkboard

Pressed against glass

Like desperation

I feel it too.


The gentle rumbling engine returns

Leaving branches behind

Silvie Hill


On the riverside path, heading into town. A missile shoots past: glossy, lustrous, looks almost metal. Sapphire, emerald and terracotta hit retina, thrill senses. The bird streaks like an Exocet, skims the aequor, guidance system locked onto destination post. Flash. Swerve. Thrust. Dazzle. It lands, but not destructively. Halcyon wonder!

Paul Gamble

Amanda Tuke, River Wandle, S London


London. South Circular. Stop. Start. Gratingly slow. Grip steering wheel. Sigh. On the pavement, a bevy of pigeons, one-two, one-two, stop, jab, heads bopping. And then they’re off, synchronised motion, swerving as one through darkening skies; a joyous unity. Comedy strutters become jubilant soarers, and my heart flies, too.

Amanda Scott


For a few fleeting seconds the birds and I appear to move in tandem
Soft speckled wing glides to my pedal strides
Sap filled daffodil shoots pushing through winter’s blanket
Itching towards spring
Pale sun cracks an optimistic smile over the glazed urban ditch
Breath of spring catches my wheels

Gloria Maloney


Water mirrors the reflection of the bridge in St James Park. Trees bud, snowdrops burst forth through thawed earth, eager to feel the sun. The benevolent gaze of serene white buildings provide a fitting backdrop as birds and squirrels vye for food whilst in a quiet corner, a heron dozes.

Geraldine Langan


To the edge

Beyond the warmth of houses
voices, shops, the car alarms
that puncture your thoughts
the silent stories of graveyards –

there is nothing to see
but darkness

or what the moon might

the half-collapsed barn
an owl swoop in shadow
that wild thing that watches

Caroline Johnstone


Golden sand beneath every step, soothing and reassuring, soft and cool.

Waves gently rolling, back and forth, back and forth.

Acrobats swooping angrily, shouting and bickering, fighting and fleeing.  

While the tide gently recedes, leaving brightened pebbles against 

dampened sand and a treasure trove for the gulls on the shore.

Anna Prutton [On Southwold’s town beach]



Just some brown dots in Far Field, like a troop of debutantes on a mirrored dancefloor—until the beat of corn nuts in the hopper calls. Now they’re coming! Cha-cha-cha, in a bill to tail conga, belly snaking through wavey grass. The ducks are on manoeuvres!

Sarah Hill Wheeler



Escaping the chocking fumes of an idling car I turn into a street of bungalows opposite a rough field.

Perched atop an ash in Arctic camouflage is the largest falcon in the world. 

White breast with grey spots and grey fawn wings.

Prized by kings. Captive released from falconry.

Suzanne Harrison

Suzanne Harrison


Air of Freedom

The promise of screens on our return, worked.
You agreed to walk with me in urban air,
to be reintroduced
to the streams rush hour through the woods,
to the maple tree thriving inside brick and limestone,
towering the wall that was meant to fence it in.

Kemi George Simpson



Snow covered labyrinth.  I should have known.  Exhausted anyway, after stepping stepping stepping through high drifts. Wiping snow off the first stone with my tired boot, I look up and see first light glowing on tree tops.  Two tiny cardinals fly about up there, peaked caps, flash of red.

Jen Clare Paulson



Across the road I spot a terracotta owl on a roof top, watching. His gaze takes in the smaller birds vying with pigeons for their share of berries. Close by, a fox wrestles its way into a stubborn wheelie bin. Overhead a flotilla of geese honk a haunting farewell.

Denis Langan

Amanda Tuke, NE London