At this time of the year we relish any opportunity to spend time by the Thames, we think it’s one of the biggest pleasures gained from living in London. The next few weeks is a particularly good time to head to the riverside, a set of gardens complete with an orchard, vegetable plots and wild flower planting has been created on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as part of the Southbank Centre’s celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Festival of Britain.
For the next four months, a rooftop garden will be accompanied by a seaside garden designed by the prize-winning gardners of Southend-on-Sea and a new staircase featuring wild urban grassland planting by Andrew Lock, all of which have have especially been built for the celebrations. The roof garden itself stretches for 1200 square metres and has been created in partnership with the Eden Project. Eden’s landscape architect Jane Knight said, “The whole idea behind the garden is that it is a taste of British gardens and landscapes. We have a lawn area with orchards, vegetable plots, a rosebud walk and a wild flower area with 90 different varieties, specially built to attract nature to the centre of London. And we have created a herb garden around a bar/café that is part of the design.” The gardens are all celebrating the landmark 1951 Festival created to give Britons a feeling of recovery and progress following the Second World War. The gardens have been designed to celebrate British-ness, and take advantage of their unique spot. Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said: “Since I first came to Southbank Centre, I have felt that developing gardens across the site would change the landscape both physically and emotionally. Our artistic vision is to have world-class, inspiring gardens across the site, which will add greenery and tranquility, and provide new spaces for imaginative artistic projects and wonderful new vistas for everyone to enjoy.”
The roof garden has also provided brilliant opportunities within the local community, and has drawn together volunteers from the homeless charity St Mungo’s and the gardening charity Putting Down Roots who have all helped to create the new garden.
Putting Down Roots is an inspiring gardening project for people who are currently homeless or have been in the past, or who are at risk of becoming homeless. PDR volunteers maintain and develop public and community gardens and hostel grounds across London and grow vegetables organically at an allotment. James, a Putting Down Roots volunteer who worked on the garden said “This has been a really good experience. I’ve been a keen gardener for about five years and before I was homeless I worked for a landscape architect. It’s good to be getting dug in again really. It’s really good therapy – you can talk to the plants and they don’t talk back! The best thing is seeing the positive public reaction. I’m going to be coming back to help tend the plants and veg over the summer.”
We would definitely recommend a trip to the Southbank to admire all their hard work and to celebrate all things British!