If you are visiting London, the first thing you will notice is the people. With nine million residents from a hugely diverse range of backgrounds, plus huge numbers of commuters on a working day and visitors at all times, the capital city is seldom anything but crowded.
Add to that the vast amount of concrete, tarmac, steel, glass, brick and stone that makes up the buildings of the metropolis and it might at first seem a long way from nature. London car hire customers might, it seems, be best driving beyond its boundaries into the country to see some wildlife.
However, the reality is very different. There are many ways of seeing all creatures great and small while staying within London’s bounds. Indeed, by going to the right place it will be possible to see things that can rarely be seen anywhere in Britain.
The first and most obvious way to do this is to visit London Zoo. Located on the edge of Regent’s Park, the zoo has just carried out its New Year stock take of its menagerie and has counted over 14,000 creatures great and small. This task includes weighing its creatures, which requires everything from heavy lifting equipment for rhinos to sensitive scales for tiny insects.
Always a fascinating place to visit with over 300 species on show, the zoo has seen a number of interesting arrivals since its last stock take in January 2022, including gorillas, tigers and newly-hatched penguins.
Visitors in 2023 will not just be able to admire the existing attractions at the 200-year-old zoo. There is also a new one coming as The Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians will open in the spring.
London Zoo may be the best place to see exotic creatures from beyond these shores, but when it comes to British wildlife, some may be surprised where they can see it in London.
For example, deer can commonly be seen in Richmond Park, where a herd of over 600 has been roaming since the park was established back in 1637.
Greenwich Park has also had a herd of deer, although this has been moved to Richmond Park while the deer enclosure at Greenwich is upgraded. The transferred herd will stay at Richmond while a new herd will be introduced at Greenwich in a couple of years.
London’s many parks offer wonderful oases for other creatures too, from squirrels to water fowl. The latter can be seen in particularly large quantities at sites such as the Serpentine in Hyde Park.
The London Wetland Centre is another great place to visit. Despite its location by the Thames in Barnes, it can seem like a different world. As well as waterfowl, wading birds and kingfishers, creatures like otters and eels can be found there too.
Some might imagine that wildlife in London consists mainly of creatures that have made a living from scavenging from the human population like urban foxes and Trafalgar Square’s pigeons. But by exploring places like these, it can be seen that there are many locations where, even in a vast city, it is still us encroaching on their habitats, not the other way round.