Rakesprogress Volume 12

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During our bitter-sweet coronavirus spring, imperceptible changes suddenly became perceptible for the first time: the colour and shapes of tulips as they go over; the tiny tendrils of a new sweet-pea shoot; the families of frogs; the back-lit, vivid green of the robinia tree as it burst into life. Even our old ash tree, coming into leaf last as always, slowly threw a welcome shade across the terrace. Animals ventured out too: fox cubs from under the compost heap, a pheasant in our neighbours’ garden, and seagulls in suburbia scavenging for waste on the overflowing tips. Did they know more than we realised? Research now suggests that in 2020 there was a drop in seismic noise — the hum of vibrations on the Earth’s crust — as transport networks and industry ground to a halt.

Our relationship with our natural surroundings creates a sense of place, identity and belonging. And if this strange year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to live in a more holistic way: to design urban green spaces, to rewild, to make use of pockets of unused land, and to create wildlife corridors where nature can continue to feel safe and untouched.

At rakesprogress, we’re still adjusting to this new world order, but, as you can see, the magazine is still here, more profuse in pages — and we’d like to think — better than ever. So, here is volume 12, a bumper issue to make up for its absence this summer. It’s not a lockdown issue, but it is filled with some of the lessons learned over the last six months. We look at birdsong, deserted playgrounds and lockdown flowers. We talk to the forensic scientist who solves crimes using her knowledge of pollen and botany. We meet Masami-Charlotte Lavault, who bravely set up Paris’ first flower farm in an old graveyard. We ask Dan Pearson about his 20-year involvement with the Tokachi Millennium Forest, and discover how he fell in love with Japan and the Japanese sensitivity to nature. There is magic in this attention to detail, to the forensic examination of nature.