Michael McCarthy: The grass is greener on the other side

Nature Notebook: Great Nature is still visible in view of the heartless towers if you look hard enough

A A A

Glancing out of the newsroom window at the noble London plane trees fronting the Victorian Gothic of St Mary Abbots church, topped by the tallest spire in London, I tried hard to think of something favourable to say about Canary Wharf. I failed.

The Independent has finally moved. After nearly 15 years living among the steel-and-glass towers of Docklands we have shifted, from east to west, to the heart of Kensington on the other side of London, and all I can think of is, good riddance. I feel there are many reasons to detest Canary Wharf, most prominent among them being the fact that this flashy overgrown business park symbolised supremely the rip-off culture of financial services, that ideology of egregious greed which produced the banking crisis and the mess we are all in now. Look at the tall glittering towers and they seem the embodiment of the heartless; and as I wrote here in January, it is a district which is lifeless, too, a place where the bits of greenery that are allowed are entirely cosmetic and controlled, with never so much as a weed or an insect in view.

But as I also wrote in January, that's not quite the whole truth. Canary Wharf sits on the Isle of Dogs, that tonsil-shaped peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Thames, and where you have a river, you also have wildlife, willy-nilly. Back then I learned that my colleague Sean Huggins, sub-editor, local resident and talented birdwatcher, was compiling a list of all the birds he could see on "the island", as they say down there, and in the first two weeks of January had reached the remarkable total of 45 species, including such surprising occurrences as sparrowhawk, great spotted woodpecker and woodcock.

Sean has now left the paper, but on Sunday evening, thinking Canary Wharf thoughts, curiosity got the better of me and I rang him up – he was on a birding holiday in Norfolk – and asked what the figure was now. It was 67 species, he said, including merlin, our tiny, exquisite falcon, and ring ouzel, our blackbird of the mountains. Amazing. So down there, in view of the heartless towers, Great Nature is still visible if you look hard enough. It's a consolation. But not much of a one.

Kensington gets a bum deal

Looking at St Mary Abbots, I suddenly remembered that once, in the back streets behind the church, I had spotted a party of long-tailed tits (which used to be called bumbarrels) flitting about in a nearby tree. Not surprising, as two major parks are close by: Kensington Gardens and Holland Park. Others may see Kensington as the epitome of the elegant or the stylish; permit me to view it henceforth as the home of the bumbarrel.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EYFS, KS1, KS2 Teachers

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to be part ...

class teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: a small rural school, is ...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: They want their school to ...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work in ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star