Category: Open Spaces


Heart of Hackney

I attended a meeting in Haggerston, Hackney, London recently and spotted this rather fine old Park Keeper’s lodge at Albion Square Gardens.

Old School Gardener

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Green Flag bandstand flagI’ve been a Green Flag judge for a few years now – I judged six parks and green spaces this year, including Eaton Park in Norwich (see picture below). I recently attended a ‘Debriefing’ session to hear how this year’s judging went .

Eaton Park, Norwich

The scheme- which promotes good standards in public parks and gardens- celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year and I and fellow judges were told how the scheme continues to grow in its reputation and reach; this years aw spaces in several continental countries being inspected for the first time as well as increased numbers of both applications and successful awards across the UK.

The scheme, managed by Keep Britain Tidy, saw 1,686 parks, cemeteries, universities, shopping centres and community gardens meeting the high standard needed to receive the Green Flag Award or Green Flag Community Award, the quality marks for parks and green spaces.

And this year, for the first time ever, an NHS hospital – The Royal Bournemouth NHS Foundation Trust – has achieved the Green Flag Award standard, joining recipients Blue Water Shopping Centre in Kent and Peak Forest Canal in Whaley Bridge.

The Green Flag Award judges- there are more than 700 – volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.

SkeltonGrangepond_headerWe heard how a university grounds in Finland was the first space to be judged there this year and how more are expected to apply in 2017. We also heard about judging experiences in Ireland and a first judging for a length of Canal. This year’s awards went to the following areas:

I and my fellow judges were delighted to receive a specially inscribed copy of  ‘Great British Parks’ by Paul Rabbitts as a ‘thank you’ from the organisers. The next round of applications is now open; find out more here.

Old School Gardener

 

Local residents in Walsall hold a 'popup' event at Chuckery Village Green- one of the winning projects

Local residents in Walsall hold a ‘popup’ event at Chuckery Village Green- one of the winning projects

More than 80 unloved and neglected urban spaces across the country will be transformed into green oases for everyone to use, thanks to a share of a £1.5million dedicated fund, Communities Secretary Gregg Clark has announced.

Increasing the availability of green space draws more people outside, giving residents, particularly in urban areas without gardens of their own, more space to relax, get together with their neighbours, grow food and provide safe space for children to play.

87 Community Groups, from Newcastle in the north to Penryn in the south-west, will have the money to create their own ‘dream’ pocket parks, developing small parcels of land, sometimes as small as the size of a tennis court. Clark said:

“These winning bids all have a strong community focus at the core of their plans and their designers have thought up highly creative ideas to turn unloved urban spaces into the green lungs of their communities that will be enjoyed for years to come”

Permarin Community Group, in the south-west, plan to turn an unused area of tarmac into a native Cornish Garden with space for children to play. A Disability Group in Wolverhampton plan to turn a 30 year old tipping zone in to a natural wildlife area, working with local residents and people with poor mental health or physical disabilities to create a pocket park. And at Chuckery Village Green, in Walsall, a group plan to make the most of some cherry trees on a derelict plot by planting an edible herb and vegetable garden, using the produce to make and sell pies and jams.

Peri pocket park today- due for a major makeover

Permarin pocket park in Cornwall, today- due for a major makeover

Each community group has been allocated grants of up to £15,000 to create a pocket park, which has been defined for this programme as a piece of land of up to 0.4 hectares, although many are around 0.02 hectares.

Chuckery village Green's Cherry trees- part of the plan for food growing

Chuckery village Green’s Cherry trees- part of the plan for food growing

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork Chief Executive, said:

“We’re delighted the government is supporting communities and councils to do more. For many local groups, improving the park at the end of their street is the first step in getting much more involved in how their neighbourhood is run.”

Further information: Government Website with locations of all the winning projects

Old School Gardener

(from an original in ‘Landscape and Amenity’ Magazine, March 2016)

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I love this place. The Jardim Da Estrela (Star Garden) in Lisbon is fairly small, but captures every aspect of community life.

I’ve been here many times, but never in winter. The day after Christmas day (a Saturday), seemed likely to attract quite a few visitors, but it was a sunny 17 degrees Celsius, so it felt more like spring or late summer, and the place had a comfortable business about it.

The sun was low, capturing the brilliant leaf colours of Ginkgo and Cercis. There was joy all around; old men sharing a joke and a bench; young lovers embracing amid the long shadows; children trying out new bikes and scooters; friends sitting out with a smoke and a coffee next to arguing geese and under low flying parakeets; dogs exercising their owners still full from festive food; youngsters stretching themselves in the playground and keep fit fanatics doing likewise on the exercise equipment; only the games tables and community library lacked their usual clientele on this holiday break.

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This Star shines all year long- I smile, long and wide every time I visit.

Old School Gardener


Old friends Jen and Dave are currently visiting Cambodia and Vietnam. Yesterday I had an email from them with some interesting pictures of public gardens in ‘the  French equivalent of Simla’ as Jen describes the mountain retreat of Da Lat. After the heat of Ho Chi Minh City they are enjoying the ability to walk around in only 24 degrees (it’s been hovering around freezing here in Norfolk)! Jen describes the nearby Flower Gardens as a ‘complete revelation’ and says:

‘Everything was sternly ordered with avenues of bonsai. Cosmos was planted in strict rows, Gertrude Jekyll eat your heart out!’

Here are her pictures, her favourite being the Vietnamese flag flanked by a topiary teapot (I must admit at first glance I thought the teapot was some sort of squirrel)!

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Old School Gardener

WP_20141124_12_22_31_ProOn our recent trip to Bruges, Belgium we did a lot of walking and the weather was kind, with some bright, sunny, crisp mornings to explore the beautiful medieval town centre. One wonderful discovery was the Beguinage (Begijnhof). Wikipedia tells us more…

‘The word béguinage is a French term that refers to a semi-monastic community of women called Beguines, religious women who sought to serve God without retiring from the world, as well as to the architectural complex that housed such a community. The word has been absorbed into English, where it is typically written without an accent. There are two types of beguinages: small, informal, and often poor communities that emerged across Europe from the twelfth century on, and the Court Beguinages (begijnhof (Dutch)), a much larger and more stable type of community that emerged only in the region of the Low Countries in the first decades of the thirteenth century.

While a small beguinage usually constituted just one house where women lived together, a Low Countries Court Beguinage typically comprised one or more courtyards surrounded by houses, and also included a church, an infirmary complex, and a number of communal houses or ‘convents’. From the twelfth century through the eighteenth, every city and large town in the Low Countries had at least one Court Beguinage (they shut down, one by one, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). They were encircled by walls and separated from the town proper by several gates which were closed at night. During the day the Beguines could come and go as they pleased. Beguines came from a wide range of social classes, though truly poor women were only admitted if they had a wealthy benefactor who pledged to provide for their needs.

Our understanding of women’s motivations for joining the Beguinages has changed dramatically in recent decades. The development of these communities is clearly linked to a preponderance of women in urban centers in the Middle Ages, but while earlier scholars like the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne believed that this “surplus” of women was caused by men dying in war, that theory has been debunked. Since the groundbreaking work of John Hajnal, who demonstrated that, for much of Europe, marriage occurred later in life and at a lower frequency than had previously been believed, historians have established that single women moved to the newly developed cities because those cities offered them work opportunities. Walter Simons has shown how the smaller beguinages as well as the Court Beguinages answered those women’s social and economic needs, in addition to offering them a religious life coupled with personal independence, which was a difficult thing to have for a woman.’

The Beguinage residences here in Bruges are clustered around a green space which was full of mature Lime Trees- they cast beautiful shadows in the low sun..

It was about a year ago that we visited Amsterdam and discovered another Beguinage there. See Young Women and the gutters of Amsterdam

Old School Gardener

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Seafront Walkway, Malaga, Spain

Old School Gardener

utopia 40k on eastern electricity building norwich by rory macbeth and students of school of art and design 2006The 40,000 words of Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ painted onto the sides of a redundant Electricity building in Norwich by Rory McBeth and students of Norwich School of Art and Design (2006).

Old School Gardener

A Learning Through Landscapes film in which Sir David Attenborough explains how schools in England are facing tough decisions to accommodate a sharp rise in pupils. He strongly believes that making the choice to sacrifice their outdoor spaces will not only have a catastrophic effect on children’s connection with nature but also their learning, behaviour, health and well-being too.

More information: Learning Through Landscapes

Old School Gardener

Natalia Maks

I visited the Vigeland Park last summer. It is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions.

The unique sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland’s lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland was also in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park. The Vigeland Park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949.
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