The Shard and the stags

May 25, 2012  •  1 Comment

I worked from London on Thursday this week, from a top floor of Millbank Tower, next to Tate Britain on the Thames in central London.


I knew the view would be stupendous (our floor of this building sits high above the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye, right on the banks of  the Thames and the whole of London was laid out below me  (from Post Office Tower to St.Paul’s Cathedral) – an amazing site.


This part of the blog might have little to do with wildlife (there was a heron standing near Lambeth bridge if you really must have wildlife!), but I wanted to mention my day in London as I’ve always been fascinated by iconic buildings (especially in our capital city).


The “gherkin” always struck me as a brilliant bit of architecture and on boarding my train to head into the big smoke on Thursday morning, I realised (with some excitement) I would get to see the newly-built “Shard” building for the first time.


I used to live and work in London a few years ago (when I first met my wife) and even though I appreciate one feels “in the centre of the universe” in the city, I didn’t enjoy my time in London town – a filthy, overcrowded, unfriendly city, bereft of woodland and made bearable only by having hundreds of the best pubs in the world – which I do miss quite a bit!


I don’t get back to London much these days (my choice really – like I say, I’d rather not go into the centre of my home town, let alone the centre of London) but I did appreciate seeing the Shard on Thursday.


When my train pulled into Waterloo, there was a fair bit of clingy cloud in the air. Every other building in London sat below this layer of cloud (which was soon to burn off, granted), but The Shard’s top 30 floors disappeared into the cloud layer – an amazing sight.


To put this new building into perspective, it’s the highest office building in Europe, sits 50% higher than 1 Canada Square (Canary Wharf) and the John Hancock Tower in Chicago (which Anna and I have been lucky enough to climb) and is pretty-well exactly the same height as the Eiffel Tower.


It’s another superb bit of architecture and looked absolutely fantastic under the clear blue skies of central London on Thursday, when the cloud lifted…. More buildings like this please all you architects out there!



The whole week has been hot and sunny over much of the UK this week – and until today (Friday) with very little wind to speak of.

A stiff easterly has picked up today, but before this happened in the humidity of last night, the stag beetles in our garden suddenly all went bananas – as if a “stag beetle switch” had been tripped.

Stag beetles are almost entirely limited to the SE of England (they seem to be kept in very localised areas such as Hampshire, Kent and parts of Berkshire by avoiding chalky soils – they much prefer clay soils.


I’d never seen an adult male stag beetle until Anna and I moved to Reading some years ago. We rented a house, whose owner had piles of buried rotten wood in the overgrown garden and thus inadvertently (I’m sure) created the prefect conditions for these impressive-looking beasties.


I had no idea we had stag beetles in our new house a dozen miles away from the old Reading house, but we also have buried, rotten wood in our large garden - and this was crawling with female stag beetles at dusk last night.


It wasn’t just females though – in flew the males well after dark  - to see a male stag beetle fly is one of those British wildlife events you really shouldn’t miss – one would think it would be impossible for our largest beetle (by some way) to get off the ground and take to the air to find a mate.


But get off the ground they do and last night was no exception.


This hot weather is set to last a wee while longer, but now that the winds have got up, I expect the stag beetles will be crawling rather than flying in the nights ahead.


Might be worth checking your piles of rotten wood though anyway – especially those of you that live in Berkshire, Kent and Hants…


Hey Doug,

Great post! I've been wanting to check out the Shard in person since it first went up. Such a beautiful building. I do however have to post a small correction (being the proud Chicagoan that I am)... Not sure if it was simply a miscommunication, but the John Hancock building's roof is actually 34 meters taller than the Shard's spire.

Either way, that fact definitely doesn't diminish the incredible beauty and impressive design of this supertall.


No comments posted.

January February March April May June (4) July August September (1) October November (1) December (4)
January (1) February (2) March (3) April (6) May (7) June (4) July August September October November December