My new book, Sylvan Cities, An urban tree guide was published by Atlantic in May 2019.
Sylvan Cities is a potted-journey through our cities’ woody places and a literary hunt for where their wild things are.
Inviting readers on an illustrated journey into the urban forest, it’s both a practical guide to identifying some of the most common trees standing sentry on our street corners, and a lyrical, anecdotal treasure trove of facts and history, culture and leafy lore.
A few reviews:
‘Dulce et utile. (I’m allowed the Latin for “both sweet and useful” here because the botanical science is as sound as the cultural, historical and poetic aspects.) This is a delightful book: clever, pretty, fun and informative – what more can a reader ask for?’
– Sara Maitland, author of Gossip From the Forest
‘Full of gems; a manifesto for green cities. Babbs will turn us all into urban rangers, an unquiet army of neighbourhood watchers.’
– Max Adams, author of Wisdom of Trees
‘A thoroughly enjoyable read, and a beautifully illustrated practical, cultural and historical guide to some of the most common trees in our cities.’
– Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at Kew Gardens, writing in Gardens Illustrated
‘This assured book reflects on the “quiet colossi” that frame urban life… [It’s] a practical, portable companion for city walkers. Her read-aloud pen portraits on common varieties are a joy.’
– Financial Times
This August I went to Edinburgh as a writer for a project called The Sick of the Fringe. Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust and conceived by artist Brian Lobel, it’s a month-long programme that aims to inspire collaboration between science and the arts. I was writing ‘diagnoses’ of the festival performances I went to see, not straightforward reviews, but more issues-based articles exploring how things like human health, the brain, the body and medicine permeate our cultural consciousness. There’s a great article about last year’s programme on the Contemporary Theatre Review, and one about this year’s project on the British Medical Journal blog.
It was a fantastic, if intense, experience. I absolutely loved being at the Fringe, the wide-ranging types of performance I got to see, and the issues each show pushed me to consider. Our brief was to write about what we saw in a completely objective way, not to judge it on whether it was an artistic success, but to consider the issues it was trying to start conversations about. I found myself writing on all kinds of topics, including ageing, alcoholism, anxiety, childhood trauma, criminality, consumerism, climate change, dementia, depression, even why women fall in love with men on death row.
I was one of a team of writers, all of us with the shared mission to see and diagnose as many performances that were tackling health-related issues as we could. Links to my diagnoses on The Sick of the Fringe website are below, and my fellow writers’ diagnoses can also be found on The Sick of the Fringe website, under the ‘Diagnoses’ tab.
Announcing the new nature, a brand new website dedicated to showcasing urban nature writing by a variety of authors. The site is home to creative and journalistic writing, fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry – all inspired by London’s wild places and wild people.
Visit the site today to read…
The Gray’s Inn fox
The crow on the crossbar
Songs of praise
The peregrine man
The sun sets over Dartford
To the experimental lighthouse
Into the wild