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

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,

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

bramble

Arching mounds of bramble, flowering spectacularly now, on the shingle beach landscape of Romney Marsh. Dipsacus too, form a different prickly statement – more upright but equally statuesque, around the lagoons of fresh and salt water. In July, echium erupts through the herb layer and Epilobium hirsutum shows off the small clear pink florescence on lanky stems in damp situations (at the water’s edge) but also seems at home in dry and inhospitable ground. Denge Marsh, a part of the whole,  lies well sheltered behind the storm beaches of Dungeness Point and, houses man made and quite sculptural statements, sound mirrors, (click to find out more) not so visible from a distance . . .

dipsacus

sound cups 1

 

swans

sound cups group

A strange discovery on writing this post as 12 months ago to the day, I posted on Dungeness. No swimming on that day – weather looks a little hazy. But under clear skies on this visit, architectural forms stand out clearly. The coastguard look-out, covered in scaffolding, can be rented . . .

coastguard look out

. . . and round the point a ‘bouillabaisse’ where gulls feed off the fish attracted by the outlet from Dungeness B – a motley collection of concrete forms without any architectural merit – totally brutal.

edf2

edf1

edf3

cable

Winching cables make half hidden serpentine patterns by the east facing shoreline. Derelict boats and sheds are gently cast adrift over across  the shingle . . .

composition

composition 2

deserted boat

deserted boat 2

. . . one vessel is anchored beside the black frame of Prospect Cottage. The seeded crambe makes a good composition . . .

jarman last

prospect 3

. . . gorse is just green now and the cotton lavender a mass of yellow buttons.

prospect 5

prospect 4

prospect 2

prospect 6

Bye bye for this July 4th. Across the pond, a poem in celebration.

prospect

It’s the fourth of July, the flags
are painting the town,
the plastic forks and knives
are laid out like a parade.
And I’m grilling, I’ve got my apron,
I’ve got potato salad, macaroni, relish,
I’ve got a hat shaped
like the state of Pennsylvania.
I ask my father what’s his pleasure
and he says, “Hot dog, medium rare,”
and then, “Hamburger, sure,
what’s the big difference,”
as if he’s really asking.
I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,
slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,
uncap the condiments. The paper napkins
are fluttering away like lost messages.
“You’re running around,” my mother says,
“like a chicken with its head loose.”
“Ma,” I say, “you mean cut off,
loose and cut off   being as far apart
as, say, son and daughter.”
She gives me a quizzical look as though
I’ve been caught in some impropriety.
“I love you and your sister just the same,” she says,
“Sure,” my grandmother pipes in,
“you’re both our children, so why worry?”
That’s not the point I begin telling them,
and I’m comparing words to fish now,
like the ones in the sea at Port Said,
or like birds among the date palms by the Nile,
unrepentantly elusive, wild.
“Sonia,” my father says to my mother,
“what the hell is he talking about?”
“He’s on a ball,” my mother says.
“That’s roll!” I say, throwing up my hands,
“as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll….”
“And what about roll out the barrels?” my mother asks,
and my father claps his hands, “Why sure,” he says,
“let’s have some fun,” and launches
into a polka, twirling my mother
around and around like the happiest top,
and my uncle is shaking his head, saying
“You could grow nuts listening to us,”
and I’m thinking of pistachios in the Sinai
burgeoning without end,
pecans in the South, the jumbled
flavour of them suddenly in my mouth,
wordless, confusing,
crowding out everything else. Gregory Djanikian  Immigrant Picnic

c park

The Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve has over 267 hectares of ancient woodland, heathland and grassland together with 3 miles (5km) of cliffs and coastline.  Set within  the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most of the park has been designated a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a designated Local Nature Reserve. All this sets the scene for the peaceful and also should go someway to explain the problem that is occuring and identified at the end of this post. I thought to walk from Fairlight Place, down Barley  Lane where the verges are full now of a natural tapestry (the dog rose are especially glorious now – the oaks always) offering views through to the pasture only occasionally . . .

c park 2

c park 3

. . . which make them special.

 

c park4

Warm weather following months of rain mean wonderful growth on all plants. The interface of verge to stream to grasslands and meadows merge sublimely. Pieces of construction that are manmade are mainly of galvanised material . . .

c park 5

. . . but sculptural elements that emanate from nature are there too.

Some organised by man and some where nature is in control.

c park 6

c park 7

Ivy exploring the oak, ash and sycamore make interesting organic compositions in Covehurst Woods and then the big view

opens across Lee Ness Ledge to Dungeness.

c park 9

Turning up the track into Long Shaw and the meandering incline to Dripping Well, clumps of  ferns  are looking spectacular. The ancestors of these were dug up, potted up and taken by train to Covent Garden market in Victorian and Edwardian times. The sound is of gushing and falling water. and the visual is lush foliage, dappled shade, patches of sun and, on this occasion, a  single fox with a light brown coat, just pausing unperturbed on the path to watch and gauge before disappearing elegantly into the

undergrowth.

c park 10

The westerly  end of the Country Park at Ecclesbourne Glen is less peaceful recently.  The owners of Rocklands (caravan park) have erected a ‘bunker’, removed trees (which may have caused a landslip and therefore the closure of paths) and increased the number of mobile homes directly interfacing the park landscape. This has been done illegally but the owners have applied for retrospective planning which they may well obtain. The ‘bunker’ has been constructed on the footprint of a single storey building and so obstructs the pleasing views that locals and visitors were able to enjoy. As the council are custodians of the Country Park, we feel aggrieved and have received little useful communication. A peaceful protest in the form of a Sunday picnic was organised and enjoyed by 200 folk who love the park and appreciate not only nature but also this particular and special coastal environment. No representatives, elected council or from the government joined us. The ‘bunker’ is shown below and then an image of festive picnic. And someone made a video of the proceedings and the story to date  (thank you Bob + Peter). Click and listen  – it’s worth it.  Ah, little stone – how simple life should be.

building  picnic

How happy is the little Stone

That rambles in the Road alone,

And doesn’t care about Careers

And Exigencies never fears –

Whose Coat of elemental Brown

A passing Universe put on,

And independent as the Sun

Associates or glows alone,

Fulfilling absolute Decree

In casual simplicity — Emily Dickinson

concerto for the elements

February 15, 2014

gull 1

After yesterday’s big weather, slightly calmer this Saturday. Down at Rock- a- Nore (very delicious oyster, thank you, Sonny), the gulls are oblivious to the traffic problems of closed off car parks due to pot holes in the tarmac and the layers of pebbles washed over the interface of beach promenade as they  sway overhead enjoying the rhythm of the bands of the westerlies – all elemental. Us humans just trudge around talking about it all.

gull 2

Cones of strong sun landed on the fore shore within this episodic concerto . . .

sun

rock a nore

cliffs

. . the old pier stands its ground for one last storm before the renovations change its appearance and perhaps its use. How many storms has it witnessed? I find it more beautiful at each sighting and try to absorb the vision so that it’s not forgotten.

Back in St Leonards, the sky to the west grew thrillingly ominous making me rush in to listen to Martha Argerich (most marvellous and Argentinian to boot – the queen of pianists) playing Prokofiev. Oh, can I get to Aix and the Festival de Pacques to hear her live. No, sold out – stupid me as I saw the poster advertising it way back at the start of January. Imbécile. . . .

pier

st l's

last

Now this big westerly’s
blown itself out,
let’s drive to the storm beach.

A few brave souls
will be there already,
eyeing the driftwood,

the heaps of frayed
blue polyprop rope,
cut loose, thrown back at us—

What a species—
still working the same
curved bay, all of us

hoping for the marvellous,
all hankering for a changed life.  Kathleen Jamie  The Beach

quercus ilex

Not France but Eastbourne  – mature holm oaks near the Towner Gallery – great gnarled trunks topped with stupendous heavy canopied foliage that reveals metallic undersides in the blustery weather. Plenty of these trees still line the streets in the old town and match in well with the vernacular pebble and flint of free standing walls and buildings. Up above town on Beachy Head, hawthorns just cling on but beautiful in their own tough, stringy habit. We were all doubled up struggling against the weather this afternoon . . .

hawthorn

turrets

to east

. . and the clouds put on a vivid, visual and aural symphonic performance. All to be admired.

ink

to west

Even here on the chalky landscape, standing water slopped around our ankles.

erosion

Small, humble markers usually crosses are placed at significant points and a plaque with a telling verse from The Psalms erected by the Samaritans presumably (sorry for the quality of the shot). I thought about Plath immediately on arrival. Not from the obvious connection but I think that I see, read or absorb her work as environmental – related to the elements as against the emotions – so more meaningful in the big picture and less personal in the narrow view. It suits me like that I guess.

the sign

hooe 2

On the way back, the marshes around the Pevensey Levels, are a more than usual watery landscape . . . worse for others elsewhere, unfortunately for them.

hooe

Stasis in darkness.

Then the substanceless blue

Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,

How one we grow,

Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to

The brown arc

Of the neck I cannot catch,

Nigger-eye

Berries cast dark

Hooks—

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,

Shadows.

Something else

Hauls me through air—

Thighs, hair;

Flakes from my heels.

White

Godiva, I unpeel—

Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I

Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.

The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.

And I

Am the arrow,

The dew that flies

Suicidal, at one with the drive   Sylvia Plath  Ariel

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