A Coal Drops Yard Revisit

Entrance to Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard in orange and red….

Dear Readers, it’s been months since I’ve been to Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross. Last time I was very impressed by the pollinator-friendly planting, but the entrance above was closed. Today it was open again, and so I took this photo for your delectation. The colours change as you walk along, but it’s very unusual to find it empty, so it was a mad scramble to unpack the phone and get this shot just before people came into the frame.

….and in green and blue.


Upstairs I was happy to see that a dogwood (possibly Cornus kousa) was in flower next to the new Camden Council offices. In fact I spotted several during this walk. The trees are obviously suddenly in fashion.

Kousa dogwood

The architectural panoramas in Kings Cross are always worth a look.

Some of the trees are underplanted with ornamental persicarias. The hoverflies were very fond of this one.

Then it was up to the planting around Coal Drops Yard itself. There were some foxtail lilies (Eremurus) in full flower, and they were attracting a lot of insect interest. I am still puzzling about what the flats in the gasholders behind are actually like to live in. I must hang around outside and accost someone 🙂

I like the way that this allium is just coming into flower, from the bottom up clearly if the bumblebee is anything to go by.

Elsewhere there are great drifts of Achillea in sherbet-yellow – they were disappointingly lacking in insect activity, except for this bumble. I think insects prefer straightforward yarrow, to be honest. They are creatures of simple tastes. It’s all about the pollen, the nectar and how easy it is to access – everything else about how a garden plant looks is strictly for our benefit.

Well, after all that excitement I head back to Coal Drops Yard, stopping to admire Thomas Heatherwick’s splendid roof…

….and the fine photography exhibition that’s just being installed….

…and the fountains that in warm weather are full of toddlers and small dogs….

But I was in need of light refreshment and since it had been a whole two hours since breakfast it was clearly time for some icecream. I really like Ruby Violet – Julie Fisher started off with a market stall in Tufnell Park, then got a shop, and now also has the parlour at Kings Cross. Today I had a scoop of Belgian Chocolate and a scoop of Salted Caramel and Almond Brittle. If you are ever in Kings Cross I can’t recommend them highly enough. Plus they have a teeny tiny garden outside.

Well after all that I needed to walk off a few calories (ahem) so I strolled about twenty yards to a much less visited part of the development. The first time I came here, I found a wasps’ nest, but this time I noted that there was a lot of lambs-ear (Stachys), and so I wondered if I’d see any wool carder bees, who use the soft fibres from the leaves to make their nests. They say ‘if you build it, they will come’ (or at least Kevin Costner did in ‘Field of Dreams’) so after a little bit of looking I spotted a female guarding a largish patch of the leaves against all comers. I love this species, they look like winged teddy bears but this one was very feisty, even seeing off a perfectly innocent red admiral butterfly who’d drifted overhead.

And here’s a large skipper butterfly (Ochlodes sylvanus) – I can tell that it’s a male by that black streak on the wing. These butterflies lay their eggs in long grass, and so it’s so pleasing that there are more and more patches left unmown even in display gardens like these.


I really liked this zippy little fly too, with its green metallic thorax and bronze abdomen, but what species it is remains to be seen.

Mystery Fly

A blackbird must have a nest nearby, judging by this adult with a beak full of worms…


And although it’s easy to forget that we’re right on the canal, here’s a damselfly to remind us…


And who is this, running around on the lawn like a little clockwork toy? It’s a juvenile pied wagtail, just trying to catch some pesky flying insects.


It’s a hard life being a young bird and trying to work out what’s what, but this one has picked a good spot, not just for flies but for crumbs as well.

It’s nice to see that nature is still taking advantage of the niches and opportunities that humans create, both deliberately and accidentally. I have a suspicion that if we all disappeared tomorrow, the peregrines would soon be nesting on the cranes and the swans would be playing in the fountains. For some bizarre reason, that makes me very happy.



3 thoughts on “A Coal Drops Yard Revisit

  1. Anne

    It would make me happy too 🙂 You have set yourself some delightful tasks with these walks and I am enjoying them too.

  2. Anna

    The fly might be a broad centurion male (with green thorax and golden abdomen – the females are green all over I think) – I type of soldier fly, so named for their bright, smart “uniforms”

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Fantastic, thank you Anna. I did a post on soldier flies a while back so I should have recognised it. A very striking little fly!


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