When London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics was presented, part of the arguments would be centered on its eco-credentials. It would be a public transport based Olympics, energy would be renewable. Well, some of it would be.
…and the Olympic Park itself would be very green indeed – with masses of planting around the site.
The planting is probably helped in great part by the location itself, with several canals running through it, and thanks to the land clearance that swept away any vestige of history about the place… lots of landfill to pile up into nice little hills.
Unsurprisingly, the flowering plants have been chosen to look their best in late July/early August, which means in legacy terms they are useless as people using the park in the years to come will want an all-year round display. Nick-picking aside though, the planting has turned parts of the park into rural idylls of wildflowers and waving grasses.
The fresh lain lawns yesterday had a bounce in the turf that almost had me wanting pull of the shoes and walk around barefoot. Its probably flattened by now.
One concern I have had about the regeneration of the area was how old irregular paving around the canals was being replaced with single material homogeneous tarmacs and losing their decades old character, but the planting around them really does kill off such concerns. And a few bits have been left without paths at all and are now riverside meadows.
I very much also like the contrast in some places between sharply defined lawns and perfectly manicured edges, and the wildflower borders. I am also somewhat baffled as to how they managed to create this effect with the grasses in some places – which seems to my mind to imitate the waves in the canal beside them.
Although you can get from any location in the Park via the main walkways, I think you’ll miss the real delight the park has if you stick up there and don’t wander around the place by the canal side routes. They are not dead ends, but perfectly valid routes around the place.
A steep slope down to the big screen was yesterday afternoon packed with people. And the screen itself cleverly sits in a canal that has been planted up as a watermeadow, with some small streams off to wildlife ponds.
A lot of people were stopping and admiring the flowers, with some more knowledgeable types chattering to each other about what plants have been used. In fact, that is the one thing missing – a guide to the plants, as I am sure a few thousand gardens in the UK will want to have their own small patch of Olympic planting next year.
Some enterprising garden centre will probably sell a DIY kit shortly with all you need to grow your very own patch of Stratford.
There is also an incredible amount of wildlife in the park. Either it has been colonised very quickly, or they have shipped in a few hundred small fluffy things to flutter around spectators heads in a decorous manner. The birds were especially noticeable at the slope overlooking the Velodrome.
Nearer to Victoria Gate is a small park with games and things, apparently designed by children. As some people sat on benches next to a wall of planting and munched on lunch, I noticed that what appeared to be a large percentage of a bee hive busy doing their thing on the flowers.
Humans and bees seemingly totally obvious of each other less than a foot apart.
A few small expanatory signs in the pavement are dotted around, and collectively they have installed… 525 bird boxes; 150 bat boxes; 8 toadlfax habitats for moths; 4 grass-snake egg laying sites and 2 otter holts.
Another sign says that many of the plants have been chosen as they are “extremely valuable” for the above wildlife.
Even if you have no interest in sport, I would still say a park entry ticket is going to be worth the £10 entry fee just to see the gardens. And if you can work out how to get one of those £10 park entry tickets off the London2012 website, then tell me about to do it as well please.
Then I can go back and wander around the gardens again.
Some more photos over here.