Sep 13, 2008

London Parks

My time in England is running low and I was happy when a friend took me around to see a few public parks in London. Seeing parks and public spaces is another high point of interest for me since, having grown up in NYC, I can understand how important a green space can be in a sea of concrete. Some public parks can feel sterile and when they do, they are usually empty.
So it was refreshing to see some spaces that have the feel of a park but with a modern twist to them. We all need to adapt to the times and these are interpretations of how the city park has stepped into the 21st century.

This is the Thames Barrier Park, which is about 22 acres, and is set right on the river. The park consists of open public areas and also areas for contemplation. One could ponder many questions while walking along this shrub and herbaceous garden. I would imagine the hedges to be just like the water of the river when it ripples, creating a sense of calm. I could be completely wrong though, and should just enjoy it for what it is. The plantings are simple too so there wouldn't be the need for a lot of fussy maintanence. So you could expect to see plants that can handle the different seasons.
Once you are in the garden "valley" your walking pace turns into an enjoyable stroll. Even without looking directly at the plants, you are aware of the textures as you walk by them.

Simple bands of color and texture. There was an abstract quality to the garden, and while I don't think it works all the time, it worked here.

It was a surprise to see meadows throughout the park. Natural plantings inviting biodiversity into an urban environment. Paths were mown through the meadow so people wouldn't just trample through the high grass and plants. Something I have noticed is that if you want to do a meadow and think it looks messy, simply mow one width of the mower around it and you have a nice contrast as you see above. People were using all areas of the park, playing and relaxing. There were lots of young families too, which made me think of the way the children would grow up with memories of playing in the park, which would then seem so dated once they had there own children.There was something about the cafe and how the large windows still let you feel as if you were outside. What was even better is that if you look at the writing on the windows of the cafe, you'll see the latin names of all of the plants in the park, acting as a form of ornamentation. Nice touch indeed. The next park was created over a large tube station. The inside was so shiny and modern and then you were transported by escalator to a lush green oasis. This is Canary Wharf which was created by Wirtz. You are then surrounded by tall office buildings but see Taxodium distichum towering over you too.

Stone pools are in raised beds so the water and reflections are closer to eye level.
Water has often been used to drown out background noise, perfect for a city. Burms help keep the turf areas interesting, with walls slightly curved inwards. This is to surpport the back of the many people who come to seek some quiet time while passing through, while still acting as a planting bed. This wall acts as two functions, but discreetly. Sometimes whats intended is not obvouis and these details are fun to find.
One thing I didn't notice was what the park arborists do with dying trees. Instead of cutting it directly down they cut off all of the branches and notch the ends up with a chainsaw. This is so the rest of tree can act as a wildlife habitat, helping insects and animals. If you look closely too you'll also see the bat box that was carved out by them too..

Stourhead & sketches

On the way back from France, we made a stop to Stourhead, it has been a must since I got to England. This garden is considered a living work of art and is the best example of what a landscape garden is. It was designed by Henry Hoare the Second. What is interesting is that this garden was inspired by the paintings of Poussin. What is exciting is that Poussin has been a favorite painter of mine for a long time, simply because whenever I look at his work, I want to be there. Now was my chance.
This is the famous view of the Palladian Bridge with the Pantheon in the background. Note the people in the background for scale.

The garden is laid out around lake that sets up many views and vistas to stop and take in. There are many shrubs and trees but not so much to see regarding herbaceous material. Some of the tree specimens are just incredible.

Here is the Pantheon up close which is a temple dedicated to statues of classical deities. This building used to be used for picnics and dinner parties by Henry Hoare the Second.

Another view of the lake with some of the statuesque trees on the banks.
Here is something impressive, the large trunks of Taxus baccata. I am sure if more people could see this they wouldn't be considered so common.
There was a grotto here which is probably the best I have ever seen. Grottoes first started in Italian Renaissance gardens which were used as a place to get out of the intense summer heat so you could cool off. The view is of the Temple of Apollo which was built in 1765.
This is the sleeping nymph, with which a 15th-century poem is carved:

Nymph of the Grot, these sacred springs I keep

And to the Murmur of these Waters sleep;

Ah! Spare my slumbers, gently tread the cave

And drink in silence or in silence lave [wash].

There is something amazing about being in a garden that was created in the 1740's and is still standing today, and still creating so much excitement.

After being inspired in France and then by Poussins influence at Stourhead, I got even more involved in my sketchbook.
This was a quick sketch of a young apple tree at Dixter, though I am not sure what cultivar. Seeing apples growing on trees always gets me a bit nostalgic for autumn in New York, specifically the Hudson Valley. My sister and I always go apple and pumpkin picking in New Paltz, at the height of fall color.

This is Rye,which used to be on the coast but is no longer, which has a famous street called Mermaid Street, which this is looking towards. This street got its name from a sailor who said he saw and heard a mermaid calling him up there. Those are old fishing huts on the left, where the sailors would hang their nets and supplies.
Something I have noticed about old sketchbooks from my past is that there is always a drawing of the room that I am then living in. So Dixter would be no different.

More apples, they are always easy to find and can be drawn anywhere.

A street corner in Ireland.

Airports, and trains, are always a great place for me to get some quick sketches of people. This was a favorite of mine to do when I lived in Brooklyn and would ride the subway. These took place at the Dublin Airport.