the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Book Review: “insectinside – life in the bushes of a small Peckham park” by Penny Metal

Mandy Rudd, GiGL Chief Executive 

When you Google ‘Warwick Gardens Peckham’ you get a mixed bag of results, from the park’s Twitter account run by the Friends of Warwick Gardens, describing it as ‘Peckham’s premier 24 hour municipal open space’, through to numerous estate agents’ websites promising properties to rent and buy in the area. There’s even an article on how the park and its surrounds narrowly escaped becoming a major junction for Eurostar trains coming into Waterloo. Impressively however, the top search results relate to ‘insectinside – life in the bushes of a small Peckham park’ including the book’s website (https://insectinside.me/) and a related article in a local newspaper.

Described as ‘a portrait of the insects who live in Warwick Gardens, a story of life in the bushes’, author, and contributor of GiGL species records, Penny Metal focuses on bringing the extraordinary lives of the park’s insects and other invertebrates to the reader’s attention through beautiful photographs, an introduction to their ecology, and a warm social commentary that conveys her opinion on a range of topics, from Brexit and gentrification through to the local graffiti and wasted opportunities.

The book starts with an overview of the camera kit that Penny used to capture the images, along with a brief description of some of the techniques she employed to get the shots. There’s a nod to the online community she has become involved with who help to identify what Penny is capturing in her photographs, and an overview of the main areas, or ‘quarters’, that the park is divided into. From here, the rest of the book is divided into broad sections representing invertebrate groups, each section giving a brief overview of their ecology and where and when to find them in the park. For some species there’s a more anthropomorphic feel to the writing, with insects being attributed characteristics drawn from Penny’s experience of human Londoners. In one case the account is written in the first person (or first weevil, actually).

I would recommend this book to anyone that loves wildlife photography. Or that is seeking to start down the path of learning more about invertebrates. Or that just lives in Peckham. I have already given it to two family members as gifts; early reports are that the process of photographing German invertebrates in a garden in Berlin has started as a result.

The book is available via the website and Review, an independent local bookstore on Bellenden Road.

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