Tag Archive: park


WP_20150812_16_31_09_ProAnother day in Portugal, another visit, this time after we’d been to the airport to drop off our daughter. We’d been to the ‘Park of Nations’ (Parque das Nacoes), some years ago, but hadn’t managed to see everything at this site of the 1998 Expo.

For one, we hadn’t ventured into the large park which sits on the River to the north of the many exhibition and conference buildings that dominate the place, so that’s where we began. It was worth it. The park, beautifully landscaped in a series of wave-like mounds which afford a rich variety of settings, is a contemporary design which seems to work- as playground (kids love hills), performance space, running route and chillout zone. The riverside setting is especially impressive, with views towards (and under) the long Vasco da Gama bridge. Even the seats carry through the wave theme and the planting is subtle and mainly naturalistic, giving the feeling that you’re in the country, despite the ‘designed’ nature of the place. It looked pretty well looked after, too, which couldn’t be said of some of the other places later in our visit.

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After some tea and cake (how very British), we walked back along the riverside and then took the cable car that takes you along the riverside, harbour and to the aquarium. The views were great and took us over some gardens we would look at later.

After landing we discovered another couple of gardens we’d not seen before, beginning with the exciting water gardens: the long cascade was superb.

Taking in a space dominated by tall palm trees, a lovely rill and curious camel (only a full size replica), we ventured to a terraced garden that seemed promising. How disappointing to see the lack of maintenance on this splendid location especially the water gardens at its very top, which were empty and obviously neglected. The rest of the gardens looked reasonably tidy, but once the whole ensemble must have been brilliant. Maybe this is one example of how austerity has hit the country? Unfortunately, we found further evidence of this, such a shame for what was once a great emblem of the country’s investment in its future.

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For our next and final visit was to those gardens we’d seen from above, along the the riverside. I remember these gardens being a series of themed spaces, all I think, with some water features. Again we were initially disappointed to see the wooden bridge entrance closed due to safety risks and other areas, though accessible, were decidedly run down with hard landscaping in need of repair in various spots. The planting, however, seemed to be lush and varied, and passing the area a day or two later I saw piles of timber and other materials stacked, ready for use, so maybe some (overdue) repairs were about to happen.

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Despite the disappointment, I tried to understand the public investment challenges facing the country and overall, feel this modern day playground- apparently hugely popular with Lisbon livers- is still a great addition to the city’s green spaces.

Old School Gardener

Working out at Holland Park, London

Working out at Holland Park, London

Old School Gardener

IMG_0851Our recent visit to Portugal included a longer trip 1 hour north from Lisbon to a fascinating park (it is too big to be called a garden)- in fact it is billed as the biggest oriental park in Europe, stretching to around 35 hectares.

Developed within the Quinta dos Loridos vineyard, the Buddha Eden Peace Park was inspired as recently as 2001, when wealthy Portuguese investor and art patron José Berardo was shocked by the Taliban government’s destruction of the Giant Buddhas in Afghanistan.  In response to the demolition of these masterpieces of the late Gandhara period, Berardo initiated the Buddha Eden in an homage to these cultural and spiritual monuments.

Buddhas, pagodas, terracotta statues and carefully placed sculptures (modern and western) can be found throughout the park. It is estimated that some six thousand tons of marble and granite were used to create this monumental work of art.

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It is certainly an impressive achievement and one which has been laid out to a monumental scale. There are beautifully framed views and a wide range of interesting features to capture your attention as you wander round the clearly defined pathways. The planting, as you might expect at this scale, is simple and must look dramatic earlier in the season when masses of Agapanthus are in flower.

The central staircase is the focal point of the park, where the reclining golden Buddha, despite its size, creates a sense of calm.

At the central lake, Koi (Japanese carp) fish can be seen, and sculpted dragons rise out of the water.

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There are seven hundred hand-painted terracotta soldiers, each of them unique copies of those which were buried some 2,200 years ago in China. These looked to be in need of repainting (and in one or two cases more significant repair), but being able to walk among them (they were all well over 6 feet tall) was a strangely unnerving (but enjoyable) experience.

The park is certainly a fantastic visitor experience, though by the end of our visit I was feeling a little ‘over buddhad’ and almost overwhelmed by the monumentality of everything. Perhaps some thought needs to be given to creating some smaller, more human scale spaces which can complement the rest of the Park – and in doing so, perhaps making the experience of this even more intense.

The park seems to be unsure of what it is trying to be, perhaps at a stage of transition from one man’s passionate and bold move to preserve a cultural legacy to something akin to a modern-day theme park- nicely captured by the electric train that ferries visitors unwilling or unable to walk around the site!

Old School Gardener

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Thanks for reading this, my 1000th post on Old School Garden. I’ll do a fuller review of my blogging experience on my first anniversary on 17th December. But for now I hope that you enjoy my review of an interesting garden in Portugal.

A little off the beaten track in one of Lisbon’s northern suburbs (Lumiar), sit the Gardens of Monteiro Mor (this translates as ‘the High Huntsman of the Royal House’ refering to one of the former grand residents).They come with not one, but two bonuses – small, but fascinating museums, one focusing on Portuguese Theatre and the other Costume.

The surrounding gardens are a very engaging mix of formal, botanical display and wilder woodland walks – all very pleasant on a warm autumn day. And there are a number of curious sculptures to see en route too, along meandering paths and steps which take you to a variety of water features and through glades of mixed, mature trees and shrubs.

Interestingly, a communal food growing area seems to have been created on the edge of the parkland, and we also were lucky enough to see a wide range of flowers on display when we visited.

The museums, housed in two former grand houses a few paces from each other, are very well laid out. The Theatre Museum comes stocked with a huge array of printed and pictorial material along with theatre models, sculpture and theatrical props (including some lovely puppets and larger costume displays).

No need for much in the way of interpretation here as the visual richness speaks for itself!

The Costume Museum is an altogether more restrained affair, with displays of clothes and accessories from different periods set off wonderfully in the elegantly decorated rooms of the former palace. Varied lighting levels and effects and a nicely uncluttered feel all contributed to a beautiful wander though time.

This became especially interesting when we reached the 1960’s and more recent displays, which brought back some long-lost memories!

This was a visit well worth the subway ride from central Lisbon, the ‘one for all’ ticket being very good value.

Old School Gardener

PicPost: City Centre Parking

Central Park, New York

PicPost: Great Garden @ Thames Barrier Park

‘Thames Barrier Park

Who is it for?

The Thames Barrier Park was opened in November 2000 and provides a new focal point for Newham residents and attraction for visitors to south-east London

How are we doing it?

The riverside area was redeveloped and landscaped with fountains, family areas, flower gardens and tended lawns.

What are the benefits?

The park has helped to significantly regenerate the area.

When is the project happening?

The project started in 1995 and was completed in November 2000.

How can I get involved?

The award-winning Thames Barrier Park is situated in Silvertown on the north bank of the Thames and has stunning views of the flood barrier. Set within 22 acres of greenery, this unique urban oasis features fountains, gardens, wildflower meadows, a children’s play area and a 5-a-side football/basketball court.

The history of the Thames Barrier Park

In 1995 the London Docklands Development Corporation launched an international competition to create a new riverside park. The winning consortium was architect Patel Taylor in collaboration with Group Signers and engineers Ove Aarum.
Lord Mayor of London, the Rt Hon Richard Nichols planted the first tree in January 1998 and the park was opened by the Mayor of London in November 2000.

The Green Dock

One of the park’s most imaginative and attractive features is The Green Dock which was created by renowned horticulturalist Alain Cousseran and Alain Provost.

A 1km circuit of the boundary paths takes you to the Visitor Pavilion Coffee Shop where refreshments are available.
Thames Barrier Park is accessible to those with disabilities.’

Source: Greater London Authority website

PicPost: Great Garden @ Park Guell, Barcelona

Park Guell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world. The park is located in Barcelona and was designed by famous architect Antonio Gaudi.

Gaudi planned and directed the construction of the park from 1900 to 1914 for Eusebi Guell for a residential park intended for sixty single- family residences. The project, however, was unsuccessful and the park became city property in 1923. Though never fully completed, it still remains one of Gaudi’s most colorful and playful works.

Park Guell, intended to serve Guell’s private city, became all of Barcelona’s, then the world’s favourite. Gaudi let loose his imagination.

While for houses he drew on natural forms, here he shaped nature into colonnades, archways and covered galleries with well-camouflaged artificial structures.

It’s a playground for the mind: visual jokes, like columns that simulate palm-tree trunks, rubble-surfaced arches that grow out of the ground, quilts of ceramic tiles. A graceful gazebo is made of twisted angle iron – cheap to make, looks good, does not lie about its material yet its shape is as softly curved as climbing vines.’ (Park Guell website)

Old School Gardener

Pena PalaceThe Pena National Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena) is a Romanticist palace in Sintra, Portugal. The palace stands on the top of a hill above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Portugal’.

Pena Palace Park is a vast forested area completely surrounding the Pena Palace, spreading for over 200 hectares of uneven terrain. The park was created at the same time as the palace by King Ferdinand II, who was assisted in the task by the Baron von Eschwege and the Baron von Kessler. The exotic taste of the Romanticism was applied to the park as it was to the palace. The king ordered trees from diverse, distant lands to be planted there. Those included North American Sequoia, Lawson’s cypress, Magnolia, and Western Red Cedar, Chinese Ginkgo, Japanese Cryptomeria  and a wide variety of ferns and tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand, concentrated in the Queen’s Fern Garden (Feteira da Rainha). The park has a labyrinthine system of paths and narrow roads, connecting the palace to the many points of interest throughout the park, as well as to its two gated exits.

Source: Wikipedia

Simple natural elements can make a garden special for younger children

Simple natural elements can make a garden special for younger children

Surveys show how playing in parks or their own garden come out tops for children when asked what their favourite activities are. And an expert warns that children are no longer ‘free range’.

Providing simple play pleasures won’t cost parents an arm and a leg either! Thinking about how to make your garden child-play friendly and then spending a little money on creating the right space will repay dividends over  many years.

Start with the idea that the garden for children (and for adults too for that matter) should be a multi-sensory space, with:

  • different surfaces and textures to touch – stones/ gravel/ bark/ brick and plants with interesting leaves such as Stachys byzantina  (‘Lambs’ Ears’),
  • varied smells – from different flowers and leaves,
  • tastes – growing and picking your own strawberries or fresh vegetables,
  • sounds – wind through grasses, chimes, water dripping into a child-proof pool
  • sights– break up the garden into different zones with their own character.
A children's food garden

A children’s food garden

Then talk about the ways you might create this in your garden with your children, focusing on the sorts of play activities they would like…and work up your ideas using these…

Seven tips for garden play:

  1. Natural resources– treat the outdoors differently to the indoors- its special, so create spaces and provide playthings which children can’t get inside; e.g a tree house or a tree for climbing if you have one big enough,  a pit or pile of sand, or if you’re feeling very brave- a mudpool…
  2. Growing children– give children a separate, personal garden where they can ‘grow their own’ food…
  3. Futureproof- think ahead and provide things which will engage children for several years or which can be easily adapted as they grow older – convert a sand pit to a growing area, a swing frame into a hammock frame…
  4. Small and simple– a few odd bits and pieces of wood, boxes, bricks, cloth, plastic pipe etc. can fuel children’s imaginations and creative play, though purchased play equipment does have a place too, if you have the space and cash…
  5. Doubling up– make the most of space – think about garden structures which can play a role in the ‘adult garden’ as well as  providing something for children; e.g wooden arches that can support a swing, sand pits concealed below trap doors in wooden decked terraces, a climbing frame that’s one side of a pergola, varied path surfaces with some in-built pattern (you can even get some with fossils imprinted on them)…
  6. Move the earth– don’t be afraid of creating (even small) hills and hollows in your otherwise flat garden (unless you have these already of course)- children love running up and down slopes and use these for all sorts of creative games. If you like, add in a few rocks and logs (fixed down) for them to clamber over…
  7. Get social– encourage your children to play with other children – invite their friends round and take them to friend’s gardens, play areas and other places where there’s a good chance of meeting other children…

    Play garden using simple materials
    Play garden using simple materials

    Even if your garden is small, you can use your imagination and create a unique and special place for your children.

Further information:

Growing food with children

A children’s food garden

Garden games

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