02 November, 2016

Sky Garden to the Olympic Park in London

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

For over a year I was dreading going up to the Sky Garden on the Walkie Talkie building. In July as we walked around London that building haunted me! Access is free, but you have to make a booking. Security is tight; they wanted ID so we waved our driver's licenses. Up in the lift to the 35th floor.

Walkie Talkie building and Tower Bridge

Deep breath. Actually, because of the weird shape of the building, you don't see down, which would have done for me. A feeling of being on a ship (no wonder they call it the bridge) as you look out and across. Sandblasted on the windows are the sights you see. Our flat at St Katharine Docks and Tower Bridge. The Garden left a more money than sense impression - lots of cycads. More interested in the roof gardens we could see from that vantage. Chelsea Physic Garden for me!

St Katharine Docks

Tower Bridge from the Sky Garden

Second on the Ungardener's list was Dennis Severs house. This reminded me of the Tenement House in Glasgow. Both take us back to living with gaslight, and remind me of my grandmother and her bunches of freesias. No pictures allowed, so we could immerse ourselves in a very strange experience. Stranger still to think of the artist choosing to live in this house, back in a very different time. Candles. An open fire in the kitchen.

Dennis Severs House

As we walked along the Thames we wandered into the Hay's Galleria and found a delightful sculpture / fountain. A homage to the tea clippers. When we looked down Hay's Wharf was dwarfed by the modern buildings, but inside the human scale, imagining a tea clipper sailing in to an enclosed dock to offload in 1850 - HUGE!

The Navigators at Hay's Galleria

On Sunday we were at St Paul's Cathedral, seated between two crosses. At first disconcerted by their confused texture, then I read - sculptures by Gerry Judah to remember those who died in WWI - again a reminder of my grandfather. The white cross (in his case a tombstone) that stands on war graves. The confused texture reveals itself as bombed cities, thinking of the White Helmets at Aleppo in Syria.

Millenium Bridge, crosses at St Paul's
Greyfriars Garden

We went on a Blitz Walk. St Paul's was hit by three bombs. One knocked out the side door, and left and right doors are now deliberately NOT aligned as a reminder. A warden saw green silk trapped in a tree - a sea mine - and he waited 45 minutes with it. An explosive bomb was removed by two volunteers, who drove, to Hackney Marsh, where it was detonated. The rector's cat, who took her kitten from the cosy study down to the crypt each evening. As he returned from a meeting, he found it was HIS church this time ... and cat and kitten were found safe in the crypt! The wooden towers in the garden replicate the original structure of Greyfriars, and contain bird boxes.

Bow Bells

Bow Bells whose sound makes you a true Cockney. The churches with their quiet displays just inside the door of devastation from the bombing.

Guardian angel at St Lawrence Jewry with bombed church

St Lawrence Jewry (a Jewish neighbourhood from William the Conqueror) has two windows with guardian angels. This one holding the church with the roof blazing away, and the partner window showing the church rebuilt.

Rosebay willowherb on the River Lea

My turn, we went to the Olympic Park. It focuses the gardener's mind to see how much can be done since 2012!

Flats near the Olympic Park

We saw families enjoying the park as garden space. Kid's birthday parties. Friends having a picnic. Athletes running flights of stairs, while others were soaking up the sun. Between the shiny new flats were wonderful "wild" spaces to walk. Des res!!

Then to Bristol with Banksy and Brunel

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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  1. Great to see that there are still flowers around in the olympic park.
    Have you seen the olympic park in Munich? They turned the smaller buildings into student's houses - with flowers at the front door und paintings on the wall!

    1. You had a blog post about that, didn't you?

  2. Such an interesting and varied tour you had, Diana! Although I've been to Europe twice, I've never visited London but will be back to your posts to compile my "must see" list if I'm ever lucky enough to make it there. The view from the Walkie Talkie building is impressive - luckily, I didn't inherit my mother's fear of heights. I once worked in the tallest building in LA, 72 stories high. My office was on the 7th floor but our boss was on the 72nd floor - it also presented quite a view but I noted that, after an earthquake, she preferred hanging out downstairs with us.

    1. My nightmare of nightmares would be having to visit, let alone WORK, up 72 stories. The utter horror!!

  3. Many ideas for our next trip to London. Thank you!

  4. Very interesting post Diana...great photo of the Walkie Talkie building (I'm not good with heights, but nice to look at such a strange building from afar!) I take heart when I see Olympic villages being made into green spaces. People in cities need as many lovely gardens as possible. I enjoyed the post.

  5. What a lovely trip! So much history there!

  6. It was interesting seeing London through your eyes Diana. I think tourists see so much more than people who live and work there, they are all so busy, busy all the time!

    1. Takes more and deliberate effort to see our own local sights. We have penguins waiting patiently!

  7. Fascinating history. I wonder what was in the architect's mind when he designed the Walkie-talkie building. I guess strangeness counts for something, not to mention the beautiful views!

    1. It looks top-heavy, unstable - but I was so relieved not to see straight down!

  8. Those are wonderful sights of London and not the ones you usually see either. I would love to see the tea clippers as my great great great grandfather sailed on one! Sarah x

    1. It is the contact with the grandparents I never met that brought London to life for me. And the stories of my mother's life there.

  9. I didn't know about the Sky Garden, Diana. (Too long I've been away from my country of origin.) Must see it for myself -- although, like you, I don't care for heights. Beautiful pics. P. x