London: When the Romans invaded Britain, a couple of thousand years ago, the area of London where I live now was a swampy river marsh of mudflats. Remnants of a submerged, more ancient oak forest can be seen at low tide, nearer the river Thames.
Now, it’s impossible to find an angle of sight that doesn’t include a manmade structure. The ground is drained, paved or asphalted; brick and newer concrete buildings rise from the edges of car-bordered streets. The once mill-lined Quaggy stream is lined and sided with concrete (a flood defence) on its prescribed route to the Thames. Nature has either been planted and encouraged by humans – my magnolia, clematis and cats, for example – or found for themselves new urban way to flourish – the foxes, pigeons and herons.
A frog has chosen to have its family in my tiny dinner table-sized back yard. My garden is a stone terrace with a narrow flowerbed running around it. There is no pond, but nevertheless, the frog has found a shallow plastic tray under a chair, (meant for putting beneath a flowerpot), and filled it with her spawn. In the Anthropocene, life finds a way.
While I’m delighted to be hosting this amphibian family – they’re globally endangered – this is about as far from a natural habitat as I can imagine. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. I will, for example, keep their tray topped up with water (now I’ve seen them in there) during the drought, which is likely to dry up many natural ponds.
But this tray is too small for so many frogs, so I’m looking for a better situation – most likely, another artificial, purpose-built pond. Maybe when the tadpoles grow up, I can teach them to climb trees like their Amazonian cousins.