Helen Macdonald, author of 'H is for Hawk' has completed a journey around the M25 exploring the wildlife that lies along its margins.
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Is there a wild side to Britain’s busiest road? Author and naturalist Helen Macdonald embarks on a clockwise loop around London’s orbital motorway - searching for hidden wildness and natural beauty within the sight and sound of the M25. Along her journey, Helen encounters the remarkable people, plants and animals living above, beside and beneath the motorway, and delves into the controversial history of the UK’s longest and least-loved bypass.
The M25 has been part of Britain’s landscape for nearly 35 years, so how has the natural world adapted to the motorway carving a path through its environment? Starting just south of the Thames at Kent’s Junction 1, Helen explores the woodland that lines the first 40 miles of the M25. In a first sign of how animals’ lives are shaped by the man-made world, great tits are changing the pitch of their calls in order to be heard above the roar of the road. But humans have often been less willing to adapt to the M25’s noisy presence.
The village of Shoreham won a battle to divert the motorway, thanks to the landscape paintings of 19th-century artist Samuel Palmer. Palmer’s paintings are highly prized today for their pre-impressionistic style and their idyllic visions of a benign countryside. Although Palmer’s vision was at odds with the harsher reality for farmworkers of the time, 20th-century locals leveraged their emotive value to save Shoreham’s valley and re-route the motorway through nearby woods.