Woods in Ealing by the Grand Union Canal. The view from Alexandra Palace, looking south across #London.

Would you like Warren Farm to become Ealing’s largest woodland?

Here is a copy of a letter that I am sending to some of Ealing’s politicians. What do you think of the idea? Would you like Warren Farm to become Ealing’s newest and largest community woodland? 

Dear Politicians of Ealing,

I live with my young family in the Ealing Southhall constituency and am very pleased by the mounting attention that has been given to Warren Farm.

the farm

This is an important, yet neglected, piece of metropolitan land and one that deserves much better use.

While the commercial football club, Queens Park Rangers, has been offered the 61 acre (24.8 hectare) site rent free for 200 years, I have an alternative suggestion. One that would create a stronger, longer and more sustainable return on investment, that would reach more of the local community and create a significant legacy for future generations.

Let’s turn Warren Farm into Ealing Wood, the largest public woodland in the borough.

As London’s newest major woodland, Ealing Wood would be a valuable space for us to explore, play and learn. It would be a place for our community to come together around recreation, conservation and education projects.

Warren Farm has a history of recreation and this tradition would be continued. The woodland would create a destination for people to explore on foot or by bike, to watch wildlife and for guides, scouts, schools and other community groups to learn and work outdoors.

The woodland would contribute to Ealing’s ‘natural health service’ with these activities having the potential to benefit our physical and mental health.Warren Farm fields

Ealing’s community woodland would provide vital green infrastructure to the capital. It would increase the city’s resilience to climate change, contribute to its sustainable urban drainage system, increase the area’s biodiversity and help us connect to nature. The Mayor of London wants to find 20 hectares of new woodland to meet London Biodiversity Action Plan targets. At nearly 25 hectares, the new Ealing Woods would achieve that and more on its own, while massively increasing the diversity, quantity and richness of life across the landscape.

Playing Fields other end

The woodland would be planted and managed by the people of Ealing. In the future, the existing derelict buildings could be replaced by an education and recreation visitor centre.


As a community leased, managed and developed initiative the cost to the council would be negligible, but the benefits could be vast.

With all this in mind, I propose that for every Ealing resident who supports this idea and pledges to nurture the forest, you provide the Warren Farm site rent free for a year. The aim will be to find 500 years’ worth of supporters, enough time to grow great oaks like the ones we all enjoy in Richmond Park.

Sherwood 118

Such an effort would not only be a legacy for future generations to be proud of, but one that we can all start growing and enjoying today.

What do you say? Will you be one of the 500?

Walk with predators


I am currently working with Kitson Kazynka and the team at National Geographic Kids to put the final touches to Mission: Wolf Rescue, the second in a news series of books that helps young people to learn about endangered animals. Working with some of the  best wolf experts in the world, the book introduces a range of issues that wolves face and what we can do to help them.

While on Route 125 Seb and I completed an adventure to walk with predators in Cumbria. We were delighted to meet Maska and Kajika, two timber wolf pups, at Predator Experience. We explored a local wood with the young hybrid wolves and their handlers Dee and Daniel. the video above gives you a glimpse into our time with them. You can read the full adventure report here.



Join me for a conversation with Tracktivist @Hedgesprite on Twitter

Can you imagine living for a month entirely on things that can only be found within a day’s walk of your home? This is what Jess Allen did over the last month and I’ll be asking her why she did this on Twitter tomorrow night.

Jess describes herself as a “stereotypical dreadlocked-vegetarian-eco-feminist-environmentalist-caravan/yurt-dwelling aerial dancer, walking artist and academic hedgesprite with a horse” She’s currently doing a second PhD in performance, developing the practice of tracktivism with a President’s Doctoral Scholarship from the University of Manchester.

I’ll be asking Jess some questions about her work and experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #guerrillageography from 8pm (London time) tomorrow. I hope you can join us.


Exploration Revolution


I’m looking forward to speaking at a National Geographic event at the Wellcome Collection tonight ahead of the 125th anniversary of the organisation. The evening for commercial supporters of National Geographic in the UK is called the “New Age of Exploration”. In my short presentation I plan to (re)frame what ‘geography’ is (much like in this recent interview with Geographical Magazine) and then touch on an ‘exploration revolution’ that is taking place. Technology is not only changing how we conceive, plan, organise, conduct, share and review our explorations, but the number of people who can engage in them.

I love this short video by ito! showing four years of edits on Open Street Map. It’s an awesome example of collaborative and open exploration that involved over 750,000 registered users and shows collaboration at its best. For me, some of the most exciting cartographic ‘events’ in this video are where sparks of activity appear in countries, regions and neighbourhoods that were otherwise left uncharted or unpublished by governments and other organisations. It all demonstrates that places are not just discovered once, they can be discovered and rediscovered millions of times as they change and new people and other animals visit them. It’s a video that shows an Exploration Revolution that you are unavoidably part of…

Food Spreads

After months of work it’s only a couple of weeks until Mission:Explore Food is officially published. Here are some spreads from the book that we’ve issued with our press release. I’m currently working on a Mission:Explore Food Expedition to promote the book that we’re mounting over 2012/13 to do missions and discover extreme foods around the UK. Details of this slow-food journey will be appearing on The Geography Collective blog over coming weeks.



There was an accident on the M4 today so we were forced to leave the motorway at Slough and take the A4 back to Ealing. When we got to Heathrow we saw a sign for Colnbrook and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres, my wife’s research focuses on women, migration, detention, health and home… so we thought we’d turn off and have an explore. It was not just the barb wired buildings that look like they could be logistical distribution centres for a supermarket that struck me, but their positioning to and relationship with their neighbour…

The building on the left looks like it could be a detention and removal centre with it’s concrete walls, small windows and… if you look closely.. two-way surveillance including CCTV cameras and loud speakers. This is actually the Sheraton Hotel at Heathrow Airport. The building behind it is Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. Separated by just 50 metres, the ‘visitors’ of each of these dormitories are so close and yet ‘worlds apart’. It looks like they may even be able to look out of their (in)secure bedrooms to one another.

Looking north, in this picture you can see Colnbrook on the left (and west) and the Sheraton to the right (and east). Check out this map.

In their own words, here’s a quick comparison of these two different establishments:

“This centre, near London’s Heathrow airport, holds up to 383 detainees on behalf of the UK Immigration Service plus a further 20 people on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs. Sheraton Heathrow Hotel’s 426 guest rooms are warm, inviting, and designed for your comfort and convenience. Whether you choose a Classic room, Club room, or suite, you will experience the celebrated “ahhhhh” of The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper™ Bed. Since it opened in 2004 – ahead of schedule and under budget – more than 40,000 detainees have passed through the centre, making it one of the busiest removal centres in the UK. Most detainees are awaiting removal abroad, with more than 30 nationalities on average being held at the centre for an average of seven days. Our third floor includes dedicated Starwood Preferred Guest Rooms, as well as Club Rooms. Club Rooms feature King-sized beds, bathrobes, slippers and LCD screen televisions as well as upgraded amenities, free bottled water, complimentary wireless High Speed Internet Access and fitness center access. The short-term holding facility within the centre is used to hold people immediately after their detention by UK Immigration Service. They are usually only held in this facility for 72 hours. Colnbrook also provides a separate custody service to HM Revenue and Customs. Club guests have special access to the Club Lounge. A relaxing, upscale space, the Club Lounge offers complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverage options. Take advantage of the private Club Lounge where you can connect with friends, meet with your team, or simply relax by catching your favorite TV show. The majority of those detained are suspected of smuggling drugs inside their bodies into the UK.The centre was designed and built by Serco and operates on an eight-year contract (with the possibility of a two-year extension) with the UK Immigration Service. Need to get some work done? A copier/fax/printer and complimentary office supplies, internet access and computer stations are ready to go. We pride ourselves on providing the best possible environment for our detainees.”*

*The bold extract is quoted from Serco’s Colnbrook website (1 July 2012) while the words in italics are on the Sheraton’s room description page for their Heathrow Hotel.”


I’m recently back from a trip to Maui, Hawai’i. While there I was lucky enough to go underwater exploring with Emily Schell from National Geographic. I did not have my contact lenses and so my vision wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it was awesome to check out so many fish. By far I loved seeing the curious  Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the state fish of Hawai’i, the most. I didn’t snap a picture of the triggerfish on our snorkeling trip, but I spotted this one swimming through Honolulu a few days later. Cool fish, aye?

If you’re wondering how to pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua’a then this culturally enlightening (?) article from the Daily Mail (!?) will give you a decent lesson.


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