By Helen Jeffries – our London Correspondent. 

200423 Royal Hospital Chelsea
Royal Hospital, Chelsea

As it was such a beautiful day today, and I had a day off, I went for a walk along the Thames through Chelsea.  Around this time of year the Royal Hospital, Chelsea (where the Chelsea Pensioners live) would normally be a hive of activity gearing up for the Chelsea Flower show.  But today where the show grounds would be, there was absolute peace – even very little traffic along the Embankment.  Where one might have expected show gardens surrounded by beautifully manicured lawns, two geese were trimming the grass in a decidedly ad hoc manner – NOT what Carol Klein would expect.

200423 Geese at the Royal Hospital
Geese at the Royal Hospital

Also, it’s possible that they may be rewilding a little this year – I spotted some pretty blue flowers which a friend tells me are called alkanet that looks like borage, and also some white dead nettle.  These things are apparently weeds but I rather like them.  A bit of a shock for the ghosts of Flower Show medallists past!


I walked along past Cheyne Walk (the highly upmarket riverfront part of Chelsea where many famous people used to live) which was draped in mauve wisteria.  Further on, Chelsea Old Church basked in the sunshine with the statue of Sir Thomas More outside it.  I’m not sure what Sir Thomas would have made of the parakeet that flew overheard squawking.  One thing I’ve noticed in the lockdown is that as well as the birdsong being louder, I’m noticing smells more.  Near where I live the aroma of jasmine can be almost overwhelming as I walk home at night, and on today’s walk, it was the flowers of the Chelsea front gardens.

I got as far along as Albert Bridge and crossed over into Battersea.  I spotted a pair of chaffinches flying around an inlet and was delighted to see a heron standing alone and proud at the river’s edge.  I know herons are not that uncommon but somehow seeing such a large bird in the centre of the city is still rather special.

200423 Heron at Battersea
Heron at Battersea

Turning for home I kept an eye out for what other birds might appear and was rewarded with mallard ducks, the usual pigeons and herring gulls, crows, blackbirds and a remarkably unafraid thrush that let me get to within a foot or two of it before it flew away.  Passing the Royal Hospital on my return walk, the geese had gone, but now a grey squirrel was running across the lawn.  I dare say he planted some nuts in the autumn and is now confidently expecting them to have grown and earned him a Chelsea Flower Show gold medal.

By Helen Jeffries – our London Correspondent.