Thursday, 29 October 2009

Picnic on "the Coat Hanger Bridge", a Living Wall and the 200th ...

I am not sure my grandfather, Sir Ralph Freeman, the designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge intended it as a picnic site – but times have changed in the seventy plus years since it opened. Would he have envisioned having a living wall in his home city of London, planted there by an American fashion house either?

The picnic seems to have been an incredible success – perched high over Sydney Harbour nestling amongst the steel girders with your own foods, or those offered by the organisers – wish I’d been there! Cows grazing on the newly laid turf – yes truly, and a piano player and buskers serenading everyone around (apparently honky-tonk giving families and new found friends a party atmosphere).

Hampers bursting forth with juices, fruit, fresh baked rolls, breads and croissants, fresh jams, yoghurts, flasks of morning coffee; while tablecloths laid on the grass, cutlery laid out, napkins passed round – I am sure there was champagne, or Buck’s Fizz, to charge a toast to celebrate the first of the probable now annual events.

This was certainly a different take on the arts festivals to which we’re normally accustomed – street level musicians, food stalls, theatres and wandering minstrels – a high-level picnic. It started early too at 6.30 am (set up 5.45 am) and lasted only last two hours .. so not a lot of time to absorb the views, the ambience, or your breakfast.

What would you pack for your breakfast at 161 feet ( 49 m) above the harbour waters below – a good old English of Devils on Horseback (prunes with a bacon wrap), Spanish Tortilla (thick egg omelette with mushrooms, potatoes), scotch eggs, baby tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms (with feta cheese), slices of melon, grapes, warm oozy buttered French bread with blackcurrant jam perhaps – perked up with a cafe latte, a bush tea or an English Twinings?

What a feast with which to take in the stunning cityscape of Sydney, its coastline, the Opera House nearby; a unique chance to walk the walk on the grass turf (10,000 metres of it) covering the normal eight lanes of bitumen; a chance to share with 6,000 others a piece of history – what will we get next ... a living wall perhaps?

That’s exactly right – a living wall it is .. planted as an interior by Anthropologie, the eclectic American retailer, inviting the customer to explore further – to experience the floors of bohemian chic .. be it textiles, furniture, home accessories, vintage 21st century apparel .. or to admire the planting of the living interior.

This vertical climbing garden, cleverly set next to the staircase, reaches 200 metres high dominating the 10,000 foot of retail space, incorporating 18,000 plants of 14 different species – sedums et al. These two-by-two-foot panels, that are three inches deep, containing numerous rectangular cells planted in special soil that retains the moisture, are watered via drip irrigation lines running between the rows of panels with rain water from the roof, as and when necessary. The skylight lets in some natural light, while the interior green walls will help clean the air in the building.

Photo courtesy of Decor 8 - the living wall and staircase, and two displays

The designs can be as eclectic as Anthropologie’s global range of goodies and can change with the seasons depending on what has been planted – different colours, plants that smell (like camomile or thyme), or that flower .. they don’t tell me if there are worms, slugs and snails mixed in too – or for that matter which plants have been planted? My sister-in-law on her instructed designated visit to give me the low down .. did not divulge the presence of slugs, snails nor puppy dog’s tails.

I was interested in the fact that I had to look at two websites to find out a little more information, rather than Anthropologie’s own pages. It seems that they have a cult following of bloggers and if you feel like a browse around – desiring things beyond our immediate possibilities .. they are well worth a look: these talented fashion, visually stimulating posts that have been put together. Decor8 and Pia Jane Bijkerk

Wall planting per the Green Roof site

So we have two living places – one vertical, already returned to its roots, perhaps to reappear for next year’s picnic, and a horizontal one (that has a guarantee of 15 years – well the States’ website says that!) – a visionary gateway to the hip retail therapy ahead. My grandfather designing the coat hanger, while his wife’s family absorbed the Hamley’s store a little further down Regent Street into their toy business .. while, all I can do is bring to fellow readers’ attention these quirks of fate by writing my 200th post today.

The stories amuse my mother and she loves seeing the pictures on the iphone! – as she finds it difficult to focus on a mixed page of text and pictures – so we can talk about all sorts of things and I usually have a picture to match. She loves it – and says what an amazing piece of technology, she likes to hold it and check the pictures out (where did you find them?) .. I have to master its’ amazing range of applications – not too good yet: difficult to concentrate on the mundane with other far more important life and death moments going on.

These pictures came from Pia Jane Bijkerk's blog - the amazing quintessential English tea at the press opening
My mother say these posts stimulate her and give her something to live for – as did my uncle – he couldn’t wait for the postman to drop a letter off, or for me to leave! if I delivered some, so he could read the next instalment!, or they look forward to hearing more, to see what this brain will think up next, where the stories will lead us. It’s a pot pourri of posts .. here’s to the next 200?

Dear Mr Postman – this strike is becoming a bit of a nuisance though the bills get through, as does some correspondence, which is nice to have at this time – new cards for my mother’s birthday in the middle of the month, and memories of my uncle from people unable to attend the funeral at midday tomorrow.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

What an interesting place for a picnic. How fun that would have been. Great job 200 posts. Time have a party.

Glad that your mother is doing as well as she is. Hope that the two of you have a great day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. thanks - yes a little tourism attraction I suspect for the picnic. 200 seems an amazing number considering all things.

Today we have a celebration for my uncle - time to remember his life .. I'm sure it'll be sad, but happy too as he had a long and interesting life ..

Many thanks for your thoughts
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Filemot said...

Hi Hilary

Breakfast on bridges and plants in walls - too many things in unexpected orientations for me. Congratulations on your milestone of posts. Ma will be looking forward to your next one. Tales from the Telegraph failed to impress.

B xxx

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Filemot aka B .. thanks for the thoughts .. I rather liked my orientations .. but pleased too I made the 200 mark.

Mum was wide awake when I got there and we had some more birthday letters and cards - another 15 or so .. she was chuffed and we chatted about the views etc and decided on new posters - Barbara Hepworth Gardens in St Ives .. a view of a dry stone wall at Gulval Church with campanula and campion growing out ..

Thanks & bye .. see you ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

wilma ham said...

I love living walls! I have more plants than furniture and would love to have a living wall in my house. How fun to have a grandfather with a legacy like that.
I too like your mother looovvve your pictures, they are a hit every time.
Congratualtions on your 200th post,
Love to you both, Wilma

Patricia said...

Very interesting Hilary and I will need to come back again and wander around. I saw bicycles planted with flowers on my UK picnic on a bridge though...
Thank you for sharing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. the living wall really tickled my fancy when I saw it in the paper .. and really 'need' to get to London to see it for myself fairly soon .. There are all sorts I'm sure a 'wall' could be squeezed into your house somewhere?!

Yes - the photos and stories are a great hit with my Mum .. thank you. Thanks too for the congratulations for number 200 ..

Have a wonderful Halloween - you're in it! as you're ahead .. and love to you too -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. thanks for coming here - I know you're busy and I owe you a pasty recipe today ... it'll be lovely 'to see you' mooching around and exploring the tidbits of info here ..

People can be so inventive with their planting .. wheelbarrows, bicycles etc .. glorious colour peeping through. Glad you enjoyed your UK tour .. come again ...
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

I sensed an Australian connection in you and this post confirms it. How marvelous to have a visionary and inspirational grandfather. Many people speak of the SYdney Opea house by the Danish architect who realized the project yet the Sydney Harbour Bridge is another fascinating structure. Tourists love the opportunity to climb it. Unsure if you are aware of that opportunity. WHen you visit Sydney, that is something you would surely enjoy. Participants wear special suits and are attached to belts with cables as they make the memorable climb. Do not forget your camera! The view is priceless!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara ..sorry for not publishing this earlier - it only just clicked in here today for some reason.

Yes - that entrepreneurial spirit is here in various forms ..from all sides of the family - but especially from my father's side.

Yes - I had friends who've been, and cousins and their children who've been - and now one of them lives in Melbourne. So one day it's definitely a place to visit and reminisce on his concept.

Many thanks for your thoughts and ideas ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories