Fiona’s Spring Blog 2014

FIONA’S SPRING BLOG, 2014                       

After enjoying the alpine mountain scenery and wild flowers, the richness of the kauri forests, sub-tropical vegetation and the last of the summer bedding displays in the parks inspired by Victorian settlers in New Zealand, I returned to what has been overall glorious, mild spring weather here. Sunshine and mild temperatures have encouraged a veritable display of spring bulbs, shrubs and trees to blossom in our gardens and parks, with plenty of activity in orchards and on allotments too. In addition to this being a lovely time to visit gardens there also quite a lot on television about prominent gardens currently, exploring the historical origins and influences behind their respective styles.
Olympic Park LandscapingIn contrast to such established gardens, it was particularly good to visit the recently opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at the start of its life as a London park. The transformation process continues, with  positive signs that the legacy of the 2012 games is benefiting a wide range of London residents and tourists, as well as being a prime example of  ‘garden history in the making’. It is hard to believe that all of the very new planting and design features will survive the heavy usage the park is already getting. It is however currently well looked after, with plenty of space, even on a busy Easter Holiday weekday, to relax, stroll, play or picnic in.
Throughout the park, a wide variety of materials are used to provide seating, other ‘street furniture’, contemporary sculptures and infrastructure such as bridges across the Bow Back Rivers. Various sports facilities such as the Aquatics Centre (see above),  are also incorporated within the landscape, with terraces and other open areas punctuated by young avenues of trees, shrubs, perennial bedding and lawns. Although the butterfly-friendly planting, rejuvenated ‘naturalised’ habitats, wild flower meadows and copses adjacent to the River Lea will take time to mature into wildlife havens, they already provide an alternative, quieter landscape to the central park and its attractions.

The park’s website mentions a variety of tours as well as several ‘self-guided’ trails with informative leaflets. For example, the Arts Trail features sculptures, ceramics, story plaques and various exhibits incorporated into various pathways, bridges and other infrastructure around the different areas of the park, which covers a site akin to west London’s well-established Hyde Park. An Activity Trail encourages younger participants to explore, draw and think about what they see around them. This will hopefully encourage respect as well as enjoyment for the park’s diverse landscaping A series of outdoor ‘activity rooms’ are also available and differently graded rock-climbing walls, pre-programmed water fountains, abstract ‘cave’ sculptures to explore and a rock garden incorporating rope bridges and sandpits.

The Orbit and Water Fountains

And, while some await excitedly for West Ham’s new stadium, a highlight for me was the Arcelormittal Orbit red steel sculpture tower by Anish Kapoor, currently the highest sculpture in London (see above). The tower offers extensive views of the park and its hinterland, a key area during East London’s 19th century industrialisation and now central to its 21st century regeneration.


Fiona Hope, BGT Secretary


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