Today I went to explore the Island with David, visiting parts of the site I had never been to before. The southern part of the wasteland that's dominated by a huge derelict warehouse is fenced off. But the fence has collapsed and it looks as though many people use this area as a dump, a hideout, a playground. David told me that the bodies of two homeless people had been found inside the warehouse some years ago, and perhaps it's this knowledge that gives me the sense of something dark and sad lurking.
The Island gives me a different perspective on the city. It is an edgeland, and clearly makes visible the different layers of development and neglect seeping outward from the centre of Nottingham.
I am struck by how different the site looks in the summer: it is abundantly green and there's a great diversity of plants. As we walk I start to list the plants. Many of them are pioneer species, happily rampaging across the rough ground and disguising piles of rubble. I also see a lot of plants that are useful medicinal herbs - I am intrigued by the idea that this semi-wild site that was once home to pharmaceutical factories might have a very different set of medicines to offer.
Plants I noted on this visit: Buddleia, Evening Primrose, Mugwort, Ragwort, Red Clover, Elder, Nettle, Bramble, Hegde Mustard, Yarrow, Rosebay Willowherb, Rowan.
I guess these common names don't translate very well, so I'll add Latin names and some of the uses of the plants soon.
As we walked around the Island, I remembered Richard Mabey's book 'The Unofficial Countryside' (1973)
"Our attitude towards the countryside is a strangely contradictory blend of romanticism and gloom.. If we are looking for wildlife we turn automatically towards the official countryside, towards the set-pieces of forest and moor. If truth is told, the needs of the natural world are much more prosaic than this. A crack in the pavement is all a plant needs to put down roots."