the dutchman in town

October 23, 2014

alfred's meadow

The dutchman‘s work doesn’t figure in the North Park of our new city park  – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park  – but I feel he might enjoy this area more than where his planting, in the South Park,  is squeezed into something resembling a shopping mall. The river Lea makes its way flowing down from Hackney Marsh, in the north, bordered by sustainable planting that should encourage wildlife to enjoy the wetland habitats. Us mortals are also given habitats in the form of thousands of homes being built around the park.

north play

School parties find space for active leisure on Alfred’s Meadow. Good idea to incorporate decent spaces flowing down to the heart of the park – the river – with seating on the higher level. A well proportioned mix of mown amenity grass to rougher wild flower areas and young woodland. There’s space here for cyclists going to + from the velodrome (Hopkins Architects) and casual visitors just strolling or those bent on getting to more physical activity in the Copper Box (Ken Shuttleworth). The bands of planting, especially the dark red Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ looking very contrived. Good plant but wrong place. Something one might mark down on plan but then change . . . are they directional? The directional routes are clearly defined though. A mystery, but one that might resolve in due course . . .  someone having to keep the ground surfaces tidy  (blowing the loose white granite chippings off the bound gravel and tarmac strips) is poor design.

velo building

velo park

velo park2

north park

The soft informal areas are delightfully promising. Good work EDAW.

north betula nigra

carpenters lock

At Carpenters Lock, where the river splits into three channels, the levels are complex too. The reflecting bridge spanning the higher ground seems to be the belt that holds the two areas of the park together. An interesting feature. Some of my life at the moment is spent in a building designed by the same architects  –  not such pleasant experience. A brutal and rather clumsy building with the circulation issues of Tate Modern. The jury’s still out as the ‘snagging’ is ongoing. On the South Park, that surrounds the stadium, where the dutchman’s planting (jolly plan on left + 3D visuals of the Outdoor Rooms on right) has to work with all the clutter that developers think we need.  His planting needs wider borders and it would be good if the seating faced the borders so that visitors can enjoy and appreciate his prowess. I could go on but I won’t . . .

olympic park imagesCH7WA8RW   outdoor rooms

outdoor rooms oudolf 2

out door rooms oudolf

outdoor rooms

. . . lights are strung across the main thoroughfare that links to the The World Gardens where plants collected from around the world now have a natural place within our UK planting palette.

podium 1

The Southern Hemisphere garden based on plants seen in the Drakensberg Range in South Africa in February and March – kniphofia and red or kangaroo grass, Themeda triandra alongside the small Cape grass, Chonodropetalum tectorum, from the restio family. More Gladiolus ( leftovers planted by the Velodrome then) and touches of blue Agapanthus inapertus intermedius with galtonias. All educational.

world gardens

world gardens 2

To the south of the stadium, Nigel Dunett’s pictorial meadows are show stopping . . .

south lawn 1

stadium

bow quarter

. . . with a view to Bow Quarter and an old home. Great exuberance and a marvellous finale.

pic meadows 2

pic meadows1

The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retroussй nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
xxxxxxxx…..would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press’d
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
“Oh! Plung!” my tauten’d strings would call,
“Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things.”
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You’d tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green.  John Betjeman  The Olympic Girl

fire

October 19, 2014

1 Last night was our bonfire night in Hastings. The Sussex towns take their turn with separate commemorations during the wind up to the grand finale in Lewes on November 5th. The bonfire societies travel to each venue filling the streets with light, noise and pagan atmosphere. Effigies were burnt in Lewes in 16C highlighting the burning of 17 protestant martyrs alongside Pius IX’s decision to restore the Catholic hierarchy in England . . . 3 4 5 6 . . . great theatricality – I hope the images convey the drama. Health and safety go out of the window, thank goodness. As the drums roll, flaming torches are cast on the pavement, sparks catch alight and mothers, dressed up, with double buggies, dressed up, marching in the procession seemingly oblivious. 7 8 11 13 The lighting of the bonfire complete – families throng the beach – and the fireworks start. An excellent show this year and one from another.

14 15 16 17 19 Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.  Robert Frost  Fire and Ice

pictorial allotment

September 14, 2014

cosmos + gladiolus murieliae

Attractive grouping on plot 30 of Cosmos and Gladilolus murielae (undoctored photo) which I will make a note of.  One note is to sow seed of  colourful cosmos as against the purist white form – beautiful but leggy, which some might think is a sign of elegance but leggy can also mean floppy – and plant in a block format as against popping in in 3’s into the perennial matrix. Always useful to absorb other viewpoints. The clump is backed by borage seen in the big view to East Hill.  The last pic of this planting taken into the light from the west, so a tad bleached out but with pleasing upright strikes of couch grass (can it ever be a pleasure?) in the foreground . . .

cosmos glad + borage

 

cosmos + beyond

bramble

. . . now. I’m focused on looking at detail of constructions – mostly pieces of timber that are ripe for reuse and, that over time, fall into disrepair and then disintegrate or get burnt. A constant cycle of hard material that matches with the production cycle. Texture to the fore then without the visual disturbance of strong colour – also shown in the seed heads and seasonal fruits now in late summer (oh, what a horrid phrase)  . . .

gourds

onion

glass

self portrait

. . . on plot 53, a self portrait taken looking into the old water tank. I admire the pendulous racemes of Sanguisorba tenuifolia ‘Alba’ (no scent)  brought back from Piet Oudolf’s nursery (when he still had a nursery) and my favourite Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ supplied by Peter Beales. No perfume either but enough gorgeousness anyway. Lovely afternoon.

sanguisorba

 

rosa odorata mutabilis

I can’t turn a smell

into a single word;

you’ve no right

to ask. Warmth

coaxes rose fragrance

from the underside of petals.

The oils meet the air:

rhodinol is old rose;

gerianiol, like geranium;

nerol is my essence of magnolia; eugenol,

a touch of cloves. Jo Shapcott  Rosa odorata

 

It was a perfect day

For sowing; just

As sweet and dry was the ground

As tobacco-dust.

I tasted deep the hour

Between the far

Owl’s chuckling first soft cry

And the first star.

A long stretched hour it was;

Nothing undone

Remained; the early seeds

All safely sown.

And now, hark at the rain,

Windless and light,

Half a kiss, half a tear,

Saying good-night. Edward Thomas  Sowing,

view point

September 7, 2014

1st

Wandering down the front to see a few Open Studios during the Coastal Currents Festival of events, exhibitions – sounds, sights + surprises – meeting passers-by, standing chatting and taking the opportunity to try to capture the limpid quality of the air.

electra studios

In the Electro Studios compositions of architecture, form and light. The work displayed is thought provoking but my intention is to convey the prospect and refuge character of the engagement . . .

electra

dog 1

. . . another visitor.

dog 2

To Seaside Road where the old bathing pool was sited. Cyclists and walkers use the path to access the beach huts at Bulverhythe and onwards to Bexhill.

electra 1

seaside road

seaside road 2

Up East Ascent, a vision of perfect peppers and a rather pleasing door.

peppers

peppers close up

east ascent

eamon

And from the Garage, Eamon is seen directing more painting of yet more pieces of modest furniture in tones of duck egg blue. All to sell. And he does quite easily.

sea

Back at the beach, silhouettes flicker and drift.

 

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because -

because – I don’t know how to say it: a day is long

and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station

when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

 

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because

then the little drops of anguish will all run together,

the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift

into me, choking my lost heart.

 

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;

may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

 

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far

I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,

Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?  Pablo Neruda  Don’t Go Far Off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

holloway

I need to do this more often; just wander through landscapes that have strong undercurrents. There’s no excuse as the Chanctonbury Ring is only about an hour away to the west along the coast road. In France I would have been much sharper on exploring similar landscapes. The uphill meander along the Holloway carved through ancient beech trees, middle-age ash and youthful sycamore has dog’s mercury carpeting the chalk and flint ground on either side. Sounds from the overhead swaying branches and foliage reminded me of a similar walk through Nothofagus woods on the other side of the world . . .  . . .

beech

ash

hollway 2

. . .  emerging into the light on the summit of the Downs with harvested fields to the south and banks of fruiting bramble encircling the woodland, the curve of the old beech ravaged by the westerlies is revealed standing firm – a living landmark on ancient fortifications.

bramble edge

The storms of 1987 have left some trees from the first planting in mid 1700’s. These grew into a cathedral grove visited by tourists in the early 20th C. arriving on specially scheduled trains from London; thousands enjoyed moonlight walks over the South Downs and stayed to see the sunrise from the Ring. Laurie Lee slept beneath the trees in 1934 and mentions meeting groups of unemployed trudging from coast to the city. Recently Robert Macfarlane, busy cataloguing his journey on foot across the island (The Old Ways), spent the night, somewhat uncomfortably in the ring, hearing screams and cries – human not avian – and voices conversing. Sussex folklore has many descriptions of the haunted areas of the downs – a portal to the otherworld.

fifth view

third view

‘Legend has it that the devil had a hand in the formation of Chanctonbury Ring. When he discovered that the inhabitants of Sussex were being converted from previous pagan religions to Christianity he decided to drown them’.

‘He began digging a trench down to the sea from Poynings, sending large quantities of earth in every direction, one of which became Chanctonbury. He was not to complete his work however. An old lady living nearby placed a sieve in front of a lighted candle on her window ledge. This disturbed a cockerel perched on a fence. The devil heard the cockerel and, looking over his shoulder, saw what he thought was the sun rising and so fled before completing his task’.

There are examples of the folklore involving interaction other than these:

Walk 7 times around the ring on a moonless night + the devil will give you nourishment.

Walk more times around naked or run backwards around at midnight on Midsummer Eve and you might see a druid, a lady on a white horse, a white bearded treasure seeker, a girl, Julius Caesar and his army ( the Romans were here too).

Sounds busy and a tad crowded. The young males seem oblivious, or are they?

sheep2

origanum 2

Wild marjorum, Origanum vulgare, spreads vigorously around the south facing slopes; the flower heads more pungent than the foliage. The chalky meadow mix on the open slopes show skeletons of agrimony but scabious, harebells and red clover are still in flower in late August; a soft ground layer around the odd mature tree presumably remnants of the planted cathedral. Back through the lower woodland – the path – the journey for visitors is clearly defined – exposed roots of old specimen beech form beautiful and rather fitting sculptural elements. The seen and the unseen exist here.

chalk downland

roots 3

roots 2

roots 1

The century of émigrés,
the book of homelessness–
gray century, black book.
This is what I ought to leave
written in the open book,
digging it out from the century,
tinting the pages with spilled blood.

I lived the abundance
of those lost in the jungle:
I counted the cutoff hands
and the mountains of ash
and the fragmented cries
and the without-eyes glasses
and the headless hair.

Then I searched the world
for those who lost their country,
pointlessly carrying
their defeated flags,
their Stars of David,
their miserable photographs.

I too knew homelessness.

But as a seasoned wanderer,
I returned empty-handed
to this sea that knows me well.
But others remain
and are still at bay,
leaving behind their loved ones, their errors
thinking maybe
but knowing never again
and this is how I ended up sobbing
the dusty sob
intoned by the homeless.
This is the way I ended celebrating
with my brothers (those who remain)
the victorious building,
the harvest of new bread. Pablo Neruda. The Saddest Century

Originally posted on By the factory wall:

Protest for Gaza on Oxford Street

Protest for Gaza on Oxford Street. 

I don’t go on a lot of protest marches. In fact, the only big, proper protest march I have been on was the one in favour of fox hunting, when I reported on it for the Hastings Observer.

Today’s march was similar, yet different. It featured the same good-natured canter through London’s beauty spots, adorned with placards, whistles and slogans. But while that rally was defending human’s right to kill foxes for fun; this protest, in contrast, defended human’s right not to be killed (for fun, or otherwise).

I attended for several reasons:

a. Seeing those boys killed on the beach when they were having a kickabout was horrific
b. Our government has not condemned the killing of children, even those in UN shelters. We have been less critical of Israel than any other nation on earth, including the US. I wished to show…

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drift garden phellodendron + salvia p rain1

” I had the idea of creating different garden rooms but on a big scale” says Piet Oudolf. The walled garden at Scampston Hall is where this idea was carried out. Within a geometric structure, the informality of the planting spreads through and harmonizes the experience of the journey  – from room to room. Rivers, drifts and flowing lines are the theme – just enough and, not so much, as to dampen or annihilate. Unfortunately, these images show clearly that the air was laden with Yorkshire moisture on this visit, so water is all around  . . .

drifts of molinia poul peteresn3

. . . . curving ribbons of Molinia caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’ are woven through the mown turf base layer in the Drift Garden. As the grasses grow, the dynamic changes into a soft meadow landscape  – the initial pattern is hidden. Low seating beneath the Chinese cork trees (Phellodendron) is surrounded by Salvia ‘Purple Rain’  – all quite delicious and showing that simple’s best.

drift garden phellodendron + salvia purple rain2

 

spring box border - beech hedges + geranium 'brookside'4

Mature beech hedging rings the exterior of the garden rooms – visible on one side of the Plantsman’s Walk as well as within in the Spring and Summer Box Borders . . . .

beech hedges katsura grove13

katsura grove astrantia claret,geranium rose claire

. . .  Astrantia m. ‘Claret’ punctuates pink Geranium ‘Rose Clair’, or is it the other way round? Woodland plants froth and spill under the Cercidiphyllum trees. A well-known Oudolf device of a central geometric  shape, in this case, an oval, is positioned here filled with Molinia ‘Transparent’  – the arching habit disguises the formality of the pattern. A sense of formality is retained all year however, in the Silent Garden, where columns of yew are firmly entrenched within square clipped bases – the only feel of movement here comes from the water surface which hardly ripples . . . a very poor photo. This is said to be a room with a calm atmosphere  . . . I’ve made it look depressing.

katsura grove, molinias to spring box border5

 

silent garden recatngular pond7

 

the mount view8

Cherry trees and a flowery mead circle The Mount which is worth ‘mounting’ to appreciate the whole scheme and understand how the rooms connect and balance  – just like looking at a master plan. Oudolf comes into his own with the Perennial Meadow – a traditional quincunx filled with naturalised planting. Groups of plants and individual species appear to be scattered in a graceful manner but rise up and blend into a powerful almost musical performance . . . even in the wet.

perennial meadow, trifolium rubens, phlomos, thermopsis9

perennial meadow, knautia, salvia + thermopsis10

perennial meadow salvi, allium schuberti, phlomis,amsonia11

perennial meadow rudbeckia occ,thermopsis caroliniana, salvia blauhugel12

Rudbeckia occidentalis wafting around above yellow Thermopsis caroliniana and Salvia ‘Blauhugel’  – quite splendid. A pleasing little gate too from which to exit – Yat is Yorkshire dialect for gate.

cut flower garden to veg garden14

One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee,
One lesson which in every wind is blown,
One lesson of two duties kept at one
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity–

Of toil unsever’d from tranquility!
Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplish’d in repose,
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.

Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring,
Man’s fitful uproar mingling with his toil,
Still do thy sleepless ministers move on,

Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting;
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil,
Laborers that shall not fail, when man is gone.
Mathew Arnold  Quiet Work

 

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