Jul 052011

South Bank

I’d heard that there was a new roof garden on the top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, but not having read anything about it I was expecting a few cursory bamboos in pots. How wrong I was. It’s been created in partnership with the Eden Project, and they don’t do things by halves.

There are lush lawns, wildlife meadows, fruit trees in brightly coloured pots, a long scented pergola, abundant raised beds of veg and a scarecrow. On a fine summer’s evening, people were making full use of it – lounging on the lawns, chatting on benches and having a drink – but it wasn’t overrun, and I can’t help thinking that a lot of people don’t know about it. Which is a shame, because I can’t think of a nicer place to meet up this summer.

Sadly, the garden is only temporary. I might have to throw myself down on the lawn and refuse to budge when they dismantle it in September.

PS Have just found a lovely account of how the gardens were created – read it here.

Apr 062011

Pic courtesy of the Eden Project

Note to self:  do not not take part in any more activities that involve heights. I have vertigo, which seems to be getting worse with my advancing years. I came a cropper at Kew recently when I found myself staggering like a drunkard along the Treetop Walkway within seconds of setting foot on it. The only way I could get to the end was to cling to the handrail and edge my way along, whimpering quietly as men, women and children sauntered past.

So I should have had the sense to say ‘yes’ three times over when a nice man with a clipboard at the foot of the Eden Project’s Rainforest Lookout asked if I have angina, am pregnant or taking any medication. And I should definitely have turned back when a nice lady smiled encouragingly and said casually: ‘there will be some movement’. But on I went, encouraged by the group I was with and the prospect of the view from the top.

‘There will be some movement’ turned out to be an understatement (the steps are suspended from the roof and wobble quite a bit) and almost immediately I found myself inhabited by the spirit of I’m a Celebrity’s Gillian McKeith. My legs started jerking beneath me (not helpful when trying to walk up nine flights of steps) and once again I had to cling pathetically to the handrail, trying not to look down, while everyone else scampered upwards like mountain goats. If feigning a faint would have been any way useful at that point I might have been tempted to try it.

I can’t tell you what the view is like from the top because I couldn’t look at it. By that point I was sweating profusely in the 100 degree heat, my stomach was doing somersaults and I had developed some rather alarming ‘jazz hands’. But I’m told it’s spectacular.

Apr 022011

Eden Project

It’s a bit early for swathes of tulips yet – these are under glass at the Eden Project. As tulips need lifting and replanting every year for the best display (which is expensive, labour intensive and not sustainable) the gardeners tend to favour daffodils. The Mediterranean biome, however, is the exception to the rule. Particularly striking are the swathes of the orange ‘World’s Favourite’, so bright it almost looks photoshopped, set off by the tiny acid-green sedums and grasses.

The man in the green T-shirt and funny hat is a ‘pollinator’ – he shows kids how plants grow. When he’s not doing that he polishes leaves in the warmth of the biome. It strikes me as a pretty nice job.