I am not a natural naturalist. I have occasional wannabe bushcraft tendencies but my skills are so limited and my time to improve them gets allocated to other activities. I have a much loved copy of Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Tracking for Children and feel humbled when I read lines such as “Tracking is the ultimate extension of awareness.”

A few weeks ago I was in Glasgow and walking along Bath Street back to my car. It’s a typical Glasgow city centre street scene.



I realised that I spend a lot of my time with my head down when I’m walking with a purpose. That’s when I had one of those “divine aha!” moments. Tom Brown tells his readers that:

“Teaching children to track is like teaching children to read a book. The individual tracks are letters, and the trails form words, sentences and paragraphs. Once children have learned to read the basics, the earth is no longer looked upon as just soil, but as an open book or journal.”

Half way up my walk, it dawned on me that I may not be able to tell a fox from a dog print (yet!) but I could work out the story of the ground I was treading. Firstly I came across a pigeon going for a stroll along the street.

By the bus stop there was a lot of gum on the ground. This often seems to be the case. Gum is dropped when people are hanging around.

A bird had lost a feather which had got trapped on this fence. I think it could belong to a pigeon.

A bird had definitely been passing by here. Again my guess, from its size was this was the pigeon again.

I reckon that this mark was made by someone who had a curry after too much alcohol because spicy food will cause stains.

I did have a couple mysteries to solve. Several lamp posts had string at the foot of them. Bizarre!

And I’ve yet to see the three-legged man who made this print in the concrete…

Perhaps, in my own strange way, I can read the signs and tracks around me after all. Now I need to get my head up and start cloud watching…

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Hear Mum Roar October 12, 2010 at 06:27

My favourite was the 3 legged man, LOL!

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mad October 12, 2010 at 09:07

hmm… maybe the string is from a load of notices tied to the post – when the notice gets ripped off, the string falls un-noticed. either that or the posts are beginning to nest.
3-legged man – Rolf Harris of course! taking a stroll when on tour….

have to admit i find city rooftops fascinating – all the plants growing up there in the sky, and the chance of a peregrine chasing that pigeon…

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Debi October 12, 2010 at 15:56

I love this idea – maybe because I live in a very urban city (Los Angeles, CA). I especially like the idea that you can make your walks a mystery or game just by paying close attention to the details. Thanks for sharing!

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(V.Kerr) School Time Adventures October 12, 2010 at 20:55

This is such a good reminder that all we really need to do is go outside and help our children be explorers.

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Sherry and Donna October 13, 2010 at 10:17

Great post Juliet … LOVE it!
Donna 🙂 🙂

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Lily Horseman October 14, 2010 at 14:25

Fantastic post Juliet, I have just been re reading Tom Brown and The sheer volume of sentences that I have to read aloud to anyone in close enough proximity is pretty high. I love your urban tracking slant.

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JDaniel4's Mom October 14, 2010 at 19:17

I need to try this with my son. I don’t think we will see any three legged men though.

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homeage October 15, 2010 at 06:17

LOL! A great post, and I love that the world doesn’t have to be bature or natural for us to enjoy, find beauty or be inspired by it 🙂

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Christie - Childhood 101 October 18, 2010 at 12:20

You are such a clever lady. I love the idea of weaving a story into your streetscape. Fantastic as always!

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Anne Keisman Cissel October 18, 2010 at 13:20

Wonderful! I lived in Philadelphia and New York City for most of my life, and I am so interested in how to explore nature in an urban environment. Thanks!

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