Friday, 10 August 2012

Rivers of Gold – the Olympic Park

From industrial wasteland to glorious flower meadows, from Olympic Park to the Queen Elizabeth Gardens – that is the way this part of east London is being transformed ...

Swathes of Gold and Silver
... soon to be reconfigured again when the temporary buildings are taken down or adapted (all part of the great scheme of London 2012) after both the Games are completed in early September.

British Waterways have happily worked with London 2012 to restore the ancient river system of the Lee Valley, by cleaning up the industrial sites once and for all, and in the process give the marshland a more 21st century feel of a modern park with up-to-date sport and community facilities.

Olympic Park - early days

The 100 ha (247 acres) site is hourglass shaped with the venues, facilities, exhibitions interspersed amongst the concourse, the walkways, steps and garden zones.
Foxtail Barley

The choice of plants, planting density and planting technique for all four sections was researched and trialled by Sheffield University, while a young designer from London (stipulated in the brief) brought her youthful exuberance to the planting.

Red Yarrow
The zones were planted up last summer to ensure the plants had a chance to bed down and settle in their positions.  There will be a very rich habitat for insects, birds, bats and bees ...

... while the canal banks, having been cleared of all their detritus, are now planted with geraniums, silver birch trees and pollarded willows,  with the towpaths dimly lit at night time.


Nesting boxes for otters, bats, sand martins and kingfishers have been installed along the canal walls – bats which like to use canals and rivulets as their motorways will be pleased to have the low light towpaths.

Ox-eye Daisy

Regular use of this part of London from pre-Roman times to the Middle Ages by tribes and the early Royals ensured that Londinium grew into the great City that we know today.

Pineapple Flower

The Olympic Park straddles an area originally known as Stratford Marsh through which the River Lea runs, and has provided from those very early days an opportunity to ford and cross on a causeway the marshes to gain access from Essex (Colchester – Camulodunum [Pliny mentioned it as Cunobelin –known to Shakespeare as Cymbeline]) into London ...

Black Iris
... as well as providing plenty of natural impediments across the marshlands to marauding or raiding parties of home tribes or Viking warriors – or by probably the first man-made alteration by Alfred the Great, who stranded a force of Danes in 896 AD by cutting a new channel as told in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

1,100 years later the Park has been planted up with four different gardens – the European one, through to the Prairie Garden, on to the Southern Hemisphere Garden, and finally to the Asian Garden ...

... there is a Great British Garden perhaps to be improved in the revamp as there was mix up between competitive creativity and health and safety requirements ... sad but that’s the way it is, and the amazing wild flower meadows ... ribbons of gold: Olympic Gold Meadows ... fielding their way through the southern areas of the Park.

The river bank meadows were also trialled and from  footage available – they look absolutely splendid with cloaks of many colours.  The tracts of rolling hills are now perennial meadows.

The North Park is where the river has been widened, creating a basin; wetlands have been planted; large swales (marshy depressions) and balancing pools have been included ... allowing for rapid floods to be absorbed, preventing flooding upstream.

It is here that the overlay of wetlands, trees, shrubs and meadows reflect the more rural Lea Valley ... adding to the perennial meadows full of UK native plants ... to the wildflower and swathes of plantings in and around the Park ... and the four continental sections exhibiting wonderful plants from around the world.

Great Coneflower
The whole has been designed with the least amount of maintenance in mind, while having the best possible habitat for wildlife, and as the Queen Elizabeth Gardens settles into becoming a 21st century Park to join those envisioned by the Victorians with their Royal Parks.

Quaking Grass

Let us rejoice in this new urban parkland arising from an area that used to hold stark reminders of our past – the Industrial Revolution style buildings with its accompanying blight, talked about in horrified terms by Dickens and social reformers of the 19th century.

Yet reminding us of that Victorian entrepreneurial heritage in the Bryant & May match factory, and Joseph Bazalgette’s northern outfall sewer built in 1863 – the London sewer system that stands sufficient to this day – and over which has been created the Greenway a public footpath and cycleway. 

late July 2012 - early Games

The London 2012 team have yet again delivered ... with the sea of golden-yellow blooms surrounding the Olympic Stadium, interspersed with stands of silver birch, and the burnt oranges of meadow flowers ...

... a sight to behold and which many a commentator, intrepid and lucky member of the public taking full advantage of the parkland, even athletes have waxed lyrical.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Scheid said...

So lovely!

A Lady's Life said...

Oh Gosh. Heaven!!
Love it all. :)

Inger said...

Oh, Hilary, you British sure now how to make a magnificent garden.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

It's quite admirable that they're considering what to do with the areas afterwards. I especially like that they're thinking of the birds. Nice.

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

I love flower gardens even though I'm a terrible gardener. But seeing them makes me want to try again.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

How wonderful that the Olympics will facilitate such a beautiful garden. There are still some wonderful things here in Atlanta because of the Olympics, too, but nothing as beautiful as those gardens are gonna be.

Jo said...

What a lovely thing to do. I guess it is really going to be part of that green and pleasant land.

dolorah said...

So much beauty. Hopefully it will all be maintained after the olympics shuts down.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan .. thanks

@ A Lady's Life - the grounds are looking stunning ... and well thought out -

@ Inger - you're right there - but lovely to see a permanent Park on that scale again ..

@ Joylene - lots of thought has gone into the future after the Games ... the cleaning up of the waterways and that industrial area must be so amazing for future generations ... lots more to do.

@ Richard - we all love flowers even if we're not terribly good with them! They can alter our outside environs ... soften our life as we glance about ..

@ Susan - glad the Atlanta Games left you some wonderful things ... I think this Park is going to be amazing once they've reconfigured it -

@ Jo - I wondered about that phrase ... Green and Pleasant Land ... the Park has been a huge success

@ Donna - they've put in plans for it to be maintained and to be enlarged once all the concourse etc has been removed ... lots of gardens, as well as various cycle tracks ..

Thanks everyone - have lovely weekends .. cheers Hilary

Talli Roland said...

Hi Hilary! My goodness, I can barely believe the Olympics are almost over - where on earth has this summer gone?

Didn't they do a spectacular job transforming the site in Stratford? It's wonderful.

Lynn said...

Gorgeous - wildflowers are my favorites.

Paula RC said...

How beautiful! I just hope the spirit of the Olympic remain with us, so that future generations can enjoy wonderful parkland too.

It's lovely to think the countryside has appeared in the heart of London after we had those awful days of rioting.

The Myasthenia Kid said...

Beautiful pictures Hilary. They really have done a wonderful job with the Olympic park xx

Tina said...

Oh Hilary, this garden enthusiast is in HEAVEN reading all this. I'm completely impressed with the care they took to looking not just to the immediate future, but actually planning for the long run. Wild flowers are my favorites, cornflowers being near the top of the list. Of course my favorite is the sunflower, as you might have noticed at my blog...but I love anything that decides it wants a home at my place. This drives The Engineer NUTS. We now have gorgeous indigo morning glory everywhere (that he doesn't rip it out - I guess I understand him removing it from the tomato plants...) that just showed up one day in my strawberry patch and they co-existed beautifully for many years, until the strawberries finally gave up (they had been moved a lot, and the last time when we put down weed barrier and put them back they all committed we grew our peppers there. This is turning into a post...sorry.
I see education in your profile? Did you by chance teach history? You could write a wonderful history book that would hold the attention of a middle school kid - seriously. Something no one around here seems to have been able to accomplish...all together we've had three different systems try to get my boys to enjoy their history BOOK. Now try to keep them away from the history CHANNEL and that's another thing entirely ;-)

Tina @ Life is Good

Tina said...

P.S Subscribing to comments.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Talli - I know they're only for 2 weeks and 2 days .. so very short time. Well we've both had things going on that have changed/changing our lives .. so there's a degree of an excuse - but time does wander by doesn't it.

I hope to get up to see the Stratford Park ...sometime soon!

@ Lynn - thankfully people are appreciating the wild flowers that just appear ...

@ Paula - wonderful planting in there - and I too hope the spirit of the Games stays with us and someone will be blogging about the Park a century later!! The riots - seems so long ago don't they - I'm sure not for those affected by them - which must have been terrible.

@ Rachel - good to see you and hope you're able to enjoy some of the Olympics ..

@ Tina - ah now you've subscribed to replies ... I'd better action!

Great comment - thank you so much .. there's much that's been thought about for these Games. But updating that part of London I sincerely hope will improve the area - there's still much more to do.

I don't think I really did proper justice to the Park - at the moment just dealing with what I find and can write about relatively easily! I hope you can find some other info.

Sunflowers are extraordinary plants - I wrote a post on them too along with the Honeysuckle ..

I was always amazed at all the convolvulus (morning glory) that grew in South Africa ... as we call it bindweed in England - terrible to eradicate ... probably quite delightful grown in pots (so it can't escape). Love the Indigo colour though ...

I managed one year to get my mother a bunch of cornflowers - blues, pinks and whites .. they were lovely - cornflower was my school flower and each Founders' Day in June - we'd be given one each to wear.

Poor strawberries - hope you've got some growing elsewhere .. while you're engineering hubby - yes I can imagine him wanting engineered details!!

re my 'about' I must change that now ... no I have no formal education - so I have no idea where this ability to write creatively came from - it surprised me a little as I hit 60. It's now what and how to do about all these posts - nearly 500 - of them ... lots of editing to do!

... Writing doesn't run in the family (as far as I'm aware of) - but when I've been away I've always written letters with historical, geographical, scientific elements attached to them ... and tried to entertain with each letter - when I first went to South Africa and onwards.

I know I have to do something - as obviously I have a way with words and history which entertains, amuses and educates people (particularly bloggers) who are interested ans supportive: luckily. Early in my blogging days people were saying write a book and haven't stopped - now perhaps I can concentrate more and can apply my mind in this direction. Thanks for spurring me on ... Good luck with the boys - I hated history at school and was useless at it!! As most things - I scraped through ... something's here in these old gray cells!!

Cheers for now - thanks everyone for your lovely comments and to you Tina for your supportive substantive comment!! Have great weekends ... Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

That cornflower is so blue! I think it's wonderful that they made sure there was so much beauty surrounding the stadium.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. the Olympic Park must be wonderful ... and I so love cornflowers - I think they might be one of my favourite flowers ...

Good to see you - and glad to hear you enjoyed the Olympics along with your new puppy ..

Cheers Hilary

Juliet said...

what gorgeous plantings, and you know what? Now that photos have been appearing in the paper of our medal winning athletes, many of them are waving their flower posies. I smile because, thanks to you, I know the story of the posies and all that has gone into them. Flowers and medals together, held by muscular men and athletic women - I love it!