Rebecca Smith - Garden design & consultancy
 

Greenwich, The Crystal and the Society of Garden Designers Spring Conference

To be honest, I am a creature of habit. There are parts of London which I would like to get to know but cannot be bothered. Work, family, dogs, all take up my time and free time in this part of the year is spent in my garden. So I left the SGD Conference in South Kensington and boarded the Tube to North Greenwich slightly annoyed I was not going straight home to Hampshire. By the time the train stopped at North Greenwich, the carriages were full of hyper teen girls, resigned looking fathers and smelled like a sports hall. No photo needed really.

The O2 and ther surrounding area is a bit of a mystery to me. We did not attend the Millenium celebrations held at the site and until Mr Smith went to see Rush in concert there last year, neither of us had actaully ever been there. (I was busy that night btw if you wonder why I did not go too...) It all came as a bit of a revelation. Not just the sheer scale of it and the facilities inside but the way the surrounding area has been transformed. 

O2 Obilisque

But after hearing James Wong speaking about the garden city that is Singapore, what I really noticed is a distinct lack of planting in the area around the O2. There is gorgeous paving. A spendid obelisk. And some beautiful quotes and thoughts to ponder whilst walking. I would love the scene above to be softened by more trees...

Shakespeare

We wandered and discovered the Pilot pub. It is well worth having a drink here, there is a shaded rear balcony and garden, there is a splendid wall of peacock blue and some rather smart glass balustrades on the balcony.

Rail and glass

To get to the Pilot from the O2, leave via the bus station of North Greenwich tube station on the opposite side from the O2 entrance. You exit, walk past the David Beckham Football Academy (sadly he was not there), 

sign post

There is an open green space (yay!!!) with some rather beautifully planted trees underplanted with daffodils and a good ground cover of pretty indestructible ivy. 

Trees

Go down these rather lovely gentle granite steps to the pub.

granite steps

As we had many hours to kill before McBusted finished at 10:30ish we kept wandering and discovered the BEST THING EVER.

The Emirates Air Line.

Seriously, if you ever have people staying who want to see London, take them there. This cable car above the Thames travels between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks and for a return fare of £8.80 you are suspended 295 feet above the river looking towards Canary Wharf and London City airport. It was amazing. We left from North Greenwich and this is what it looks like...

Air Emirates

You carry on, looking at Tate & Lyle's Docks, London City Airport, the O2 and Canary Wharf.

And down at the Thames. Which looks very cold this time of year...

View

view

And just when you think it cannot get any better than this...

I saw this!!!

The Crystal

What on earth is it???

I was like a kid at Christmas. Poor Mr. Smith.

We landed at the Royal Docks end and I literally ran to find out what the totally intriguing and, yes, EXOTIC, creature was. It is The Crystal, billed as 'a sustainable cities initiative' by Seimans: 'the World's largest exhibition dedicated to urban sustainability'. Designed by the architectural firm of Wilkinson Eyre, it is an all-electric building which uses a ground source heat-pump and solar power. It harvests rain water. The website www.thecrystal.org will explain more about the building and events held there but I cannot seem to find any information about the garden and planting which surrounds the building which is a shame. 

The garden reminded me of the Lurie Millenium Garden in Chicago which was designed by Piet Oudolf; the swthesof naturalistic planting against a backdrop of silver gleaming buildings creates a frisson and is so exciting. Here at the Crystal, the beds are planted with large groups of plants:

planting at the Crystal

Benches

Planting

Building

clover

I could have stayed for ages taking photos but it started getting cold and the wind got up...

The paving, by the way is very nice. 

paving

paving

The view on the return journey was just as fabulous as on the start:

return view

We headed back to the O2 to await the end of the concert...

There are trees planted there and they have nice uplighters...

trees uplighters

But lastly, a reminder that Greenwich is, and has been, the site of Greenwich Mean Time since 1884 and the place from which all time zones are measured. The line at Greenwich represents 0 longitude, the prime meridian of the world. 

Greenwich meridian

 

All in all, I had a great day on Saturday. 

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