Tag Archive: parks


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

 

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An extract from a rather lovely painting in the Gulbenkian museum, Lisbon

An extract from a rather lovely painting in the Gulbenkian museum, Lisbon

A further day out in Lisbon on our recent trip to Portugal saw us making the most of ‘free entry’ day (Sunday), to museums and other places of interest.

To the north of the capital there is a cluster of places that are well worth a visit. We emerged from the metro at ‘Parque’ station to tumble into the splendid ‘Edward VII Park’ (named in honour of the former British monarch), with its long sloping parterre giving fabulous views of downtown Lisbon and the River Tagus beyond. This is the place- specifically the balcony by the tumbledown fountain’s where tourists come for a memorable shot of the city. And on our latest trip there were plenty of ‘selfie’ snappers in evidence, along with the long-standing row of market stalls selling all manner of cheap souvenirs. This is also the place that newly-weds come for their wedding shots, and it reminded me of when our daughter and her new husband did just that 5 years ago.

I’d discovered that nearby there were supposed to be some ‘estufas’ (hot houses), so we moved on. Sure enough, we came upon the massive shaded roof (of the cooler house) and then the expanse of glass that presumably housed the heat-loving collection.

What a find! Some parts of the hottest house were closed, but we managed to see some amazing cacti and other succulents. But the cool house, with its range of mature planting, all set within the walls of an old quarry, was truly superb. There was some floral colour, as well as some fun sculptures placed among the plants, but the real joy were the range and combinations of lush foliage beautifully laid out around pools and other water features.

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From here were rose further up the slope from the main park to another news place for us- an interesting, more contemporary park laid out in honour of the great Portuguese fado singer, Amalia Rodriguez. Curving grass terraces give way to a round, fountained pool surrounded by bog planting over which a boardwalk allows you to get up close and personal.

From here we fell once more, this time towards an old favourite, the Gulbenkian Foundation with its lovely surrounding gardens.

Stopping off at the Modern Art Centre for a quick lunch (very good value) and look at the exhibits, we then strode through the gardens. These are notable for the unified design which hinges on the movement through a series of small-scale spaces, with contrasting light and shade afforded by the many mature trees and shrubs. The other notable feature is the use of simple rectangles of (mainly) concrete to create a route which both moves you through the gardens (including subtle changes in level) and invites you to pause and sit or just people-watch. A clever design whichI found very pleasing to be within once more. And this time we also discovered the building which contains a cafe and some interpretation of the garden, including a fun interactive ‘design’ game where you can colour in different views of the gardens and then email these to yourself or anyone else, for that matter!

Of course, no visit here would be complete without a tour through the main museum, which houses the Armenian oil-tycoon’s collection of historic and artistic objects from around the world. I was especially pleased to see examples of art works by J.M.W.Turner and the French craftsman Lalique as well as some amazing illuminated books and oriental ceramics. Here are some pictures of some of my favourite things…

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All in all, a fantastic no low cost day out!

Old School Gardener

Victoria_park_fountain_1Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets, London, has beaten off stiff competition to be crowned the nation’s favourite park in this year’s prestigious People’s Choice Award, with a record breaking 32,694 votes being cast.

In second place was Mote Park, in Maidstone, Kent and in third place was Margam Park, in Neath, South Wales.

In the vote, organised by the Green Flag Award Scheme, which presents Green Flag status to the best open spaces in the country, Victoria Park came out on top against a staggering 1,482 parks and green spaces in the annual poll. The park has won the Green Flag Award on four occasions.

Victoria Park, now a two time winner of the People’s Choice Award, and also runner up in 2013, is London’s oldest and most important historic parks, visited by millions of Londoners for nearly 170 years.

The park is the largest in Tower Hamlets at 86.18 hectares in area and has one of the highest visitor numbers of all the London parks with around 12 million visits per year.

The Park proposed in 1841

The Park proposed in 1841

Wikipedia offers some interesting facts on the Park’s history….

The original Park was laid out by notable London planner and architect Sir James Pennethorne between 1842 and 1846. The land had originally been parkland, associated with the Bishop’s Palace, but by the mid-1800s had been spoiled by the extraction of gravel, and clay for bricks. It was opened to the public in 1845.he Bridge Association can be seen inside these alcoves. A Lido opened in 1936 and reopened in 1952 following damage during the Second World War; it was closed in 1986 and demolished in 1990. The bathing pond, unused for bathing since the 1930s, is now popular with anglers.

In the latter half of the 19th Century, Victoria Park became an essential amenity for the working classes of the East End. For some East End children in the 1880s, this may have been the only large stretch of uninterrupted greenery they ever encountered. Victoria Park’s reputation as the ‘People’s Park’ grew as it became a centre for political meetings and rallies of all types. Although any one could set up their own soapbox, the biggest crowds were usually drawn to ‘star’ socialist speakers such as William Morris and Annie Besant.

 This description by J. H. Rosney, correspondent for Harper’s Magazine (February 1888) evokes a scene:

‘On the big central lawn are scattered numerous groups, some of which are very closely packed. Almost all the religious sects of England and all the political and social parties are preaching their ideas and disputing […]

On this lawn the listener, as his fancy prompts him, may assist on Malthusianism, atheism, agnosticism, secularism, Calvinism, socialism, anarchism, Salvationism, Darwinism, and even, in exceptional cases, Swedenborgianism and Mormonism.  I once heard there a prophet, a man who professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost; but this prophet ended by being locked up in an asylum, where he will have to convert the doctor before he can recover his liberty.’

The tradition of public speaking in the park continued until well after the Second World War, and was still later reflected in politically oriented rock concerts. And it is still not uncommon for marches or demonstrations to begin or end in Victoria Park. On 26th June 2014, a campaign to revive the Speakers’ Corner at Victoria Park was launched and a campaign to recreate the well-known tradition of free speech and debate in Hyde Park in East London’s Victoria Park was launched earlier this year.

VictoriaParkStitch2Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said:

“I am delighted Victoria Park has reclaimed its title as the UK’s best loved open space. It is our flagship park and a fantastic asset which is enjoyed by thousands of visitors and residents alike.”
Councillor Shafiqul Haque, cabinet member for culture, added: “The council works hard to ensure all parks and open spaces are maintained to an excellent standard and the borough has six Green Flag Award winning parks to be proud of. I would like to congratulate the parks team for their dedication and commitment as our parks provide essential recreation, play and leisure facilities.”

The park draws in more than 275,000 visitors a year to enjoy festivals and events which attract international superstars and boasts of a year round community programme. Facilities at the park include children’s play areas, boat hire, both summer and winter football pitches, cricket practice nets, bowling greens and tennis courts, as well as several sports clubs.

Three and a half billion visits are made to parks every year across the UK and they are vital part of communities. The Green Flag Award is a way that the public can be assured they are visiting a clean and well managed green space.

Victoria_Park_London,_West_Lake_Panorama_2013

The People’s Choice Top 10 and votes cast were:

1. Victoria Park  (London Borough of Tower Hamlets,England) 13212
2. Mote Park (Maidstone Borough Council, England) 3689
3. Margam Park (Port Talbot County Borough Council, Wales) 3640
4. Cassiobury Park (Watford Borough Council, England) 1695
5. Kings Park (Bassetlaw District Council, England) 1627
6. Whiteknights (University of Reading, England) 1565
7. Bute Park (The City of Cardiff Council, Wales) 687
8. Clissold Park (London Borough of Hackney, England) 642
9. Valentines Park (Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure Ltd, England) 618
10. Millennium Country Park (Marston Vale Trust, England) 464

Old School Gardener

HACO

Help pick the UK’s favourite park in an online vote. A record breaking 1482 parks and green spaces this year received a Green Flag Award and people are now urged to vote for their favourite. The annual People’s Choice Award is now open – giving the public the power to decide which one of the 1482 Green Flag Award sites should be named Park of the Year in an online vote.

To vote:
• Visit www.greenflagaward.org
• Select your country/region on the interactive map
• Find your favourite park or green space
• Click the ‘vote for this site’ button

Paul Todd, Green Flag Award Scheme manager, said:

“Following a record breaking year for the Green Flag Award we are now asking the public to decide which of the 1482 parks and green spaces deserves the coveted People’s Choice Award 2014.”

The vote will close at noon on 30 September and the winner of the 2014 People’s Choice will be announced on 16 October.

Green Flag Award home page

The Green Flag Award was first launched in 1996 to recognise and reward the UK’s best green spaces. It is the standard for parks and recognises well-managed, high-quality sites that meet the needs of the community.

All Green Flag Award winning parks and green spaces are entered into the annual People’s Choice Award vote, which last year saw thousands of votes recorded and resulted in the crowning of Margam Park in Neath Port Talbot as the People’s Choice.

Old School Gardener

green flag stratfordI’m one of 700 volunteer judges for the ‘Green Flag’ Award scheme in the U.K. This involves inspecting parks and open spaces, meeting staff and volunteers and looking at Management Plans and other documents, with the aim of assessing each space against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.

The winners for this year have recently been announced and more parks and green spaces than ever will be flying the Green Flag Award in 2014/15. In total, 1482 parks, cemeteries, universities, shopping centres and community gardens have met the high standard needed to receive the Award.

Among this year’s recipients of the Award are, for the first time, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London (picture above) and Eaton Park in Norwich. I was a judge for Elmhurst Park in Woodbridge, Suffolk, which has won an award for several years.

Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said:

‘It’s another record-breaking year for the scheme. This is something well worth celebrating and testament to the efforts of the thousands of men and women, supported by some amazing volunteers, who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award. ‘The parks sector is facing some tough challenges so it is heartening to see that they are committed to maintaining and improving standards. We know how passionate people are about our parks and green spaces and the recent Heritage Lottery Fund report, State of UK Public Parks, highlighted the need for everyone to work together to ensure they are maintained for future generations.’

A full list of the award winning spaces can  be found here.

flag

Old School Gardener

Rethinking Parks

Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, USA

‘Over the next two years, Nesta, The Heritage Lottery Fund and The Big Lottery Fund will back a small number of pioneering innovations, with a focus on finding the new business models that will enable our parks to thrive for the next century.

For example, what if parks made the most of temporary installations to generate income – like open air cinemas, food festivals or art showcases? What if communities took on the maintenance of parks, or real-time user data from smartphones was used to inform maintenance regimes? 

If you’ve got an idea to reimagine the way your local park is used, maintained or run, we want to hear from you.’

The view to the River Tagus from the front of the Neccessidades Palace in Lisbon

The view to the River Tagus from the front of the Necessidades Palace in Lisbon

On our recent 15 mile trek across western Lisbon, we took in a park that is not often mentioned in tourist trails- that of the Necessidades Palace. The palace itself is a grand looking affair, now the country’s Foreign Office, so not open to the public. The view from outside is good in all directions- one way you look out across the River and the ‘Golden Gate- look alike’ bridge; turn round and you have the splendid pink and cream stone facade of the palace and ornamental fountains. The park is tucked round the back and has the air of somewhere that’s been a little forgotten of late.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the Palace, a very important site in portuguese history:

‘Formerly a convent… it was built in the 18th century, by order of King John V, in gratitude for prayers answered by Our Lady of Needs, whose first devotional chapel stood on this site…The palace became the residence of the kings of the Braganza dynasty… Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, husband of Maria II, lived in this palace until his death, amassing a large collection of art, which would be dispersed after his death. The palace then underwent several renovations to accommodate the taste of the various monarchs who lived there, the most recent of which was carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century by Carlos I….

…The palace was the scene of memorable events in Portuguese history, some momentous, some tragic, some slightly ridiculous. One famous example: the king Pedro V had installed in the front door of the palace a slot through which his subjects could, if they wished to, leave messages and complaints for the attention of the sovereign. The last significant event at the palace, which would also be the epilogue of the monarchy, was the joint funeral of King Carlos and his son, Prince Luis Filipe, on 8 February 1908, after their assassination by radical republicans…’

The palace was shelled during the republican revolution in 1910 and subsequently most of its art and other treasures were moved to the Ajuda Palace (which we had visited a day or two before).

Today’s park (or ‘tapada’), evolved from a private hunting ground for the Kings of Portugal and it retains the feel of a semi wild place, but with areas of more defined botanical or garden interest. As you progress up the hill from the entrance next to the Palace you alternate between enclosed, wooded areas and open grassy plains. About half way up the scene turns into a more formal park setting with a a terrace sitting alongside a grand, glass-domed estufa (greenhouse) currently undergoing renovation. Looking rather like an enclosed amphitheatre, this space must have once been the setting for a theatrical display of a different kind- tiered ranks of exotic plants. How grand it must have looked. I hope that it will be fully restored and will no doubt be a gem of a place that will raise the profile of the park more generally.

Paths weave upward above the terrace, the otherwise peaceful setting being regularly interrupted by the sound of aircraft coming in to land at the City’s airport. Another grand building sits atop the park, set off by a fine fountain. This gives way to a wilder area with a round building that looks as though it may have been a windmill at one time. There are some superb areas of Agaves and other dramatic plants. The overall impression, though, is one of a parkland that must be great for a summer picnic, rather than a space where growing and showing interesting plants is the dominant activity. Apart from the domed glass house that is.

A place where once glorious scenes are slowly being reclaimed from the passage of time and nature’s path.

Old School Gardener

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