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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Walking the Lea Valley 10: From Rye House to Ware

Who could have asked for a better day for what was probably our penultimate walk along the Lea Valley? Postponed from the previous month because of torrential rain, this ramble took us from Rye House to Ware under a cornflower blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds.
We’d stopped at Rye House before - it’s a once-splendid moated mansion built in 1443 by Sir Andrew Ogard, and was one of England’s first brick buildings - but a chance to see it in the sun drew us back. More than 50 different types of brick were used in its construction, many apparent on the former gateway.
From there we continued to follow the Lea/ Lee (there seems to be no definitive spelling), pausing to watch mother birds supervising their fast-growing chicks as they foraged for food.
There are quite a few houseboats moored along this stretch of the waterway, their decoration ranging from traditional to quirky.
I hadn’t realised Stanstead had a lock as well as an airport, but it looked to be as busy as the nearby runway.
One of the boats passing through was heading for Devizes, but expecting the journey to take at least eight weeks – slow travel at its best.
A short detour to Amwell Nature Reserve was rewarded by the sight of hundreds of birds, including a cormorant. The banks were rich with wildflowers.
There were more flowers, too, when we arrived at the historic town of Ware, which we hope to explore on our next walk. “Ware in Bloom” the signs proclaimed proudly. More of the area’s delights were highlighted at the station on a door covered with wildlife scenes. No indication of the artist, but fun to look at while waiting for the train back to London.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Stanmore Country Park - designed by Nature

The last time I visited Stanmore Country Park, there were carpets of bluebells under the trees. At the moment its Wood Farm area is bedecked with interwoven wild flowers and grasses – a stunning carpet that would rival anything in a show garden.
We followed the marked nature trail path up to the higher ground where the trees give way to a meadow with yarrow, vetch and thistles of all colours. 
A touch of drama is added by teasels.
Among the wild flowers beside the paths are hundreds of daisies.
A lovely surprise near the path we followed was the discovery of an almost-hidden pond, the still water reflecting the scudding clouds.
The high point - literally - was the viewing area on the ridge, where a panorama of London stretches before you. A detailed plaque points out landmarks such as Alexandra Palace, the Shard, Canary Wharf and the Gherkin. Even the Heathrow control tower to the west is identified. In the far distance you can just make out Box Hill and the North Downs.
Returning to Stanmore station, there were swathes of delicate flowers underpinned with frothy grasses. And I thought: who needs a garden designer when nature does it so well?

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Twelve London gardens to delight and inspire

Last weekend saw the Open Gardens Day for our NW2 neighbourhood. Twelve gardens opened to the public – all very different, but equally entrancing, and a tribute to their owners who nurture them with such care and attention (above: Maggie and Peter's garden with terrace, lawn and pond; below  Heidi and Gavin's family garden, where plants are grown mostly from cuttings.)
It was very much a community affair, with plenty of opportunities for catching up with neighbours and making new friends. Several hundred people stopped off for refreshments in the tea garden, went up the tower of St Gabriel’s for a birds-eye view, and bought plants grown for the occasion by members of the garden club. 
They discovered Alvio's garden (above), that he has transformed over the years from a jungle of ash and sycamore trees to a colourful oasis.
They saw how Kate and Simon's relatively small plot manages to include 8 varieties of trees, a rose garden, woodland walk and stream.
Andrew has rejevenated this family garden with a palette of cooler whites, greens and blues. (Loved the way buckets were used for lavender planting.)
An unusual sight at the end of Rosie and David's garden: a tranquil woodland glade.
Hester's garden is on three levels with a large box parterre and a pergola of reclaimed wrought-iron railings.
Alio and Dominic's family garden has three main areas providing entertainment and relaxation for adults, children and a large dog.
Elayne and Jim's garden, brimming over with plants, has a wildlife pond, pergolas with clematis and roses and a collection of acers.
Belinda's surprisingly large garden has four ponds, self-seeding plants, fruit trees, roses and hydrangeas.
Deborah and George's immaculate lawn is surrounded by colourful borders and mature trees.
The Dell, NW London's best-kept secret, was also on show. It's a park hidden behind a a row of houses and at this time of year is awash with roses.
The money raised through ticket and plant sales will go to local charities, while some children collected £50 for the Grenfell Tower victims by selling home-made lemonade from their front garden. The event is organised every two years by the garden club, part of the Mapesbury Residents’ Association, and some 80 people were involved in the planning and preparation. Grateful thanks to everyone for such a memorable afternoon.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Diana memorial garden replanted for summer

The White Garden in the grounds of London’s Kensington Palace, planted in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died 20 years ago, has been given a fresh look for summer. Designed and created as a tribute to her by palace gardeners, it celebrates her elegance and style with a sea of flowers, including some of her personal favourites.
Pots of classic English white roses now surround the reflective pool in the centre of the garden, while beds are filled with lilies, gladioli, cosmos, gaura and fragrant nemesia.
The garden is a temporary one, coinciding with an exhibition inside the Palace of some of her iconic dresses - Diana: Her Fashion Story. This runs until the end of 2017.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Visiting Lambeth Palace Garden

There’s a treat for both plant and history lovers this summer. On the first Friday of the month until September, Lambeth Palace – the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury – opens its garden to the public. It’s been continuously cultivated for longer than any other in the country, having been a private garden since the 12th c. Over the centuries, various incumbents have put their own stamp on it.
One of the first things you see is an enormous fig tree on the left of the entrance to the Great Hall. A White Marseilles variety, it was brought from Italy by Cardinal Pole when he arrived to become Queen Mary’s Archbishop in 1556. It still gives two crops of fruit a year, in July and October; some of this ends up as jam. The tree has also returned to Italy. In 2014, Archbishop Justin Welby visited Pope Francis in Rome and gave him a cutting from the tree as a symbol of the common heritage of the two religions.
The entrance to the garden is to the right of the main building (above). It covers 10 acres and includes a Jewel Border, Rose Arbour and a herb garden (below).
There are also bee hives.....
...a composting area...
...........and many mature trees.
Among them is this Tulip Tree, a species introduced to England by Royal gardener John Tradescant the younger, which was in bloom at the beginning of June.
Fittingly, Tradescant is buried next door in the churchyard of St Mary-at-Lambeth, now the Garden Museum and recently reopened after a major refurbishment.
Visitors to the Palace garden can go on a short guided walk and learn more of its history and future plans. These feature a new garden area designed by Dan Pearson to surround a planned purpose-built library and archive.
This will be at the far end of the garden by the current pond, which is to be enlarged and enhanced. The development should be completed by 2020 and will house the Palace’s collection of precious books and manuscripts. Some of these are currently on display in the Great Hall, which we were able to visit on the open garden afternoon.
Admission to the garden is £5, and refreshments are available in a marquee on the lawn.