Peter Coles is a freelance writer, translator (French to English), editor and photographer. He is Visiting Tutor at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he contributes to the Photography and Urban Cultures MA programme. Mulberry, Peter’s latest book, is published by Reaktion Books (November 2019).
In 2016 Peter collaborated with the Conservation Foundation to set up Morus Londinium, a project to document, preserve and raise awareness of London’s mulberry tree heritage. Hosted by the Conservation Foundation, the project has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Morus Londinium is winner of a European Heritage / Europa Nostra Heritage Award 2021. Visit the website to find Peter’s many blog articles revealing London’s heritage through its veteran mulberry trees.
In 2018 Peter helped to set up the first Urban Tree Festival. He is a member of the festival’s Steering Group and a regular contributor, giving talks and leading walks.
Peter originally studied psychology, with an MA from Manchester University and a D.Phil from Oxford University (Wolfson College). After a period carrying out research, he switched to science writing for Nature magazine, based in Paris and continued as a freelance, writing for New Scientist and Science, before taking an editorial position with UNESCO. After living in Paris for 20 years Peter returned to London, where he lives with his wife and three children. He is a long-standing translator for the English edition of the UNESCO Courier, and an editorial consultant for Gopa.com which handles content for the European Commission. Peter’s photography has been exhibited in a number of cities and is in public and private collections.
- Tree Register Vicky Schilling bursary 2021-22 to record veteran mulberry trees.
- European Heritage / Europa Nostra Heritage Award 2021 for the Morus Londinium project (with the Conservation Foundation).
- First prize, Scientists at Work category, Novartis/Daily Telegraph Visions of Science photography awards 2004
- Artist in Residence, A Studio in the Woods, New Orleans, February, 2006
Selected photography exhibitions
- Walking the Dog, Kaleidoscope, Dornfell St, London (April 2012)
- Patricia Laligant, New York. 2001.
- Watercolours, Poubelles, Shoes, Artazart, Paris, France 2000
- Temps de Pause, Atelier Demi-Teinte, Paris, France 2000
- L’objet abandonné, Sala Uno, Rome, Italy 1998
- Objets abandonnés, Conquest Hospital, Bexhill, UK 1997
- Earplugs, 5 Dryden Street Gallery, London, UK 1977
- Charting the Invisible APT Gallery, Creekside Deptford. 10-15 November 2017
- Urban Memories, Lewisham Art House, London, 3-12 November 2016
- Streetopolis, Urban Photographers Association, 71a Gallery, London, 2015
- Streetopolis, Urban Photographers Association, The Folio Club, Barcelona, 2015
- Streetopolis, Urban Photographers Association, W83 Gallery, New York, 2015
- Eighth Greenwich Annuale, Greenwich Gallery, London, 2015
- Movement, Urban Photographers Association, Silverprint Gallery, London, 2014
- Seventh Greenwich Annuale, Greenwich Gallery, London, 2014
- Sixth Greenwich Annuale, Greenwich Gallery, London, 2013
- Paris Traces: Catford Blockbuster. Platform-7, Catford. June 20, 2012.
- Six Photographes. Hélio Gallery. Rouen (France). February-May. 2012.
- 10 Years, 47 Artists, A Retrospective Celebrating A Studio in the Woods’ 10th Anniversary, Carroll Gallery, Tulane University, New Orleans (USA), October 6 – 27, 2011.
- Urban Trees: Paris and London. Crossing Lines, Goldsmiths, 2010.
- The Urban Edge, Goldsmiths, 2010
- Invited artist, Gallery 1839, London Photographic Association, 2008
- Entrez en matiere L’Ecu de France, Viroflay, France 2002
- ArtKanal 10, Paris, France 2001
- Transparence, L’Ecu de France, Viroflay, France 2000
- New York Photography Fair, 1999, represented by Patricia Laligant
- Photobis, Espace Nesle, Paris, 1997
Selected Publications/conference papers:
- Fountain Court: refuge from the ‘bain de multitude’, Literary London, Institute of English Studies, London, August 2015
- John Evelyn’s Mulberry (and other stories). Literary London, Institute of English Studies, University of London, 20-22 July 2011.
- The Urban Arboreal (with Susan Trangmar). Street Trees Conference. UCL. 12 May 2010.
- -London-Luton: a commented photographic essay on the Lea Valley (with Gesche Wuerfel). Literary London, July 2009 (published in EnterText (8) Spring, 2010)
- Paris Traces, StreetSigns, September, 2008
- Urban Blitz, London Independent Photography, September 2008
- Incognito by Susan Freddi (Paris, 2005) – photography
- Monthly features for UNESCO Courier and Sources magazines 2001-2004 (e.g. urban nature in New York and Cape Town; culture and education in Vanuatu, etc);
- Weekly column for Nature 1987- 1992 and special features on Antarctica, science in Finland, France and former Yugoslavia;
- Commissioned features for New Scientist (on Mali and Rajasthan), Science magazine and others 1992-2001
- Photography for Independent on Sunday;
- Arts in Hospitals, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, London, 1980;
- Commissioned chapters in Art for Architecture, ed. D Petherbridge. London, HMSO, 1987
- Poetry collection, Paris-Atlantic, Paris, 1993 (12).
13 thoughts on “About”
Are you the Peter Coles who took the picture of the North Korean generals covered in medals? I’d like to use it in my book on the transition to renewable energy if possible.
Hi John. No I’m sorry that’s not me. Good luck in finding the author. Peter
Hi, There is a mulberry tree in the grounds of Beckenham Place Park, South London, at the edge of the formal gardens. I don’t know how old it is. Thought you might like to know.
There is a mulberry on the edge of the formal gardens at Beckenham Place Park. I don’t know how old it is. Thought you might like to know.
Thanks for your interest. Yes I know this tree – really nice black mulberry. It should be on our map with a photo as I visited a year or two ago. Good to know it’s still there!! Peter
I just wanted to say thank you so much for your extremey interesting guided walk along the Ravensbourne river yesterday. Love the fact that your innate knowledge of so many things goes off in contextual tangents! Fascinating. We went to St Nicholas Church after we left you but, alas, it was closed. Another time to see Marlowe’s grave.
Apropos Mulberiana, you probably know this but there is an oldish mulberry tree in Hampshire at National Trust property, Mottisfont, just outside the walled rose gardens.
Hope we can meet again on another of your walks,
Pam & Martin Roberts
Hi Pam and Martin. I’ve just updated my laptop and all of a sudden found your comment. Apologies for not responding earlier and thanks for your kind comments. I will let you know of other walks – maybe in Urban Tree Festival week again this May? best. Peter
Better late than never! Yes, by all means, please keep me informed about other walks.
Helo Peter. I have been enjoying your articles on Mulberries. I wonder if there is a comprehensive published list of Morus nigra cultivars. I want to plant a few and hope to find one that produces swet fruit. Neighbours have a Morus nigra which has fruit that is quite sour. Is any cultivar grown grafted, that produces fruit more quickly? Best wishes, Dominic.
Hi Dominic. Glad you like the blog. I’m guessing you’ve visited the sister site http://www.moruslondinium.org devoted to mulberries? There aren’t really any cultivars of Morus nigra – it doesn’t hybridise, though you might find that clonal descendants of a specific old tree produce fruit that is more to your taste. Barcham’s sells mulberry saplings and has a little blurb about each ‘variety’. Chelsea, King James, Shakespeare and Charlton are all names of M. nigra you might find and I rather like the taste of all of them. Stay away from the Morus matsunaga (Charlotte Russe) dwarf variety – it’s a white mulberry with black fruit, but the fruit is tiny and not very tasty though OK in yogurts and cooking.A tree I’ve found very pleasing is M. alba pendula – a white mulberry with black fruit and long weeping branches. It’s an elegant but small tree and the fruit tastes nice. M. alba multicaulis is another black-fruited ‘white’ mulberry. This one grows very quickly and produces nice tasty fruit. It can have huge leaves and doesn’t mind being pruned (which M nigra doesn’t appreciate).
I contributed to the latest edit of the Morus entry on Bean’s Trees and Shrubs Online and that does give a list of the most common mulberry taxa and their fruit. Worth a visit. treesandshrubsonline then search for Morus.
The RHS also describe some varieties of mulberry and their fruit. If you find M. nigra sour, you might actually like the white-fruited varieties of M. alba. I find them rather insipid / sickly but a lot of people like their sweetness. They’re easy to grow.
I found one here: https://www.habitataid.co.uk/products/mulberry-tree-white-mulberry-morus-alba
Hope this is useful. Are you in London? If so I lead walks every now and then that you might be interested in. All the best. Peter
I live in Co. Wexford in the south-east corner of Ireland, but if I were in London I would certainly seek out your Mulberry walks. Maybe some time.
I agree that Morus alba fruits in their various colours are insipid compared to those of M. nigra. I got to taste lots of them in the 1980s in the Winnetka suburb of north Chicago where cousins of mine live and where, they told me, there was an attempt to set up a silk industry long ago.
The M. nigra of the Botanic gardens in Dublin produce wonderful fruit and so did one that used to grow in a back garden of a solicitors’ office in New Ross, co. Wexford. But the two thirty year oldd (or so) trees in Woodville gardens produce sour fruit. All that set me wondering about cultivars and I found USA websites advertising grafted mulberry trees with cultivar names. And an article about Buckingham Palace gardens refers to dozens of named mulberries. I wish they would publish a list of what they have. I am tempted to write to the King.
On Moracaea we have a fig tree with unusual palmate leaves which sets only nasty fruit with pale interiors and hints of very bitter latex. They look like appetizing dried figs… Looking online I see the best match for the leaves is Chelsea Figs, allegedly associated with Thames riverside trees. I wonder if they bear nice fruit. I grew up by a garden with what were said to be Brown Turkey figs and we grow those now, the tree bought from a nursery. Strangely I cannot find a National Collection of fig cultivars in GB or Ireland . Such a thing would be well worth a visit in August.
All the best,
Hi Dominic. Thanks for the information and clarification. Re: Buckingham Palace. The Head Gardener (now retired) Mark Lane is an acquaintance and I have visited the mulberry collection often with him (he was instrumental in the Trees and Shrubs Online collaboration with Tom Christian and myself). The Palace did publish a book called The Queen’s Mulberries but in an edition of 100 selling at £1000 each. The British Library has a copy you can read. I am in the process of doing exactly what you mention – writing an illustrated description of the collection, but am waiting for early summer to be able to photograph the leaves and fruit. That said, they have a couple of M. Nigra including an old one, but the remaining 35+ are all M. alba cultivars and a few hybrids with M. rubra. I remember Mark saying that “Everbearing” lives up to its name and the fruit is nice.
Interesting about the figs. perhaps another book in that (but I won’t be writing it). If you find a copy of my Mulberry book you might enjoy it. best Peter