Friday, 28 October 2016

City parks in Autumn

I count myself lucky to have caught so much rus in urbe over the past month or so, especially in Edinburgh and Leeds. There's also a virtue in seeing the same parts of London parks and gardens across the seasons, above all Kew Gardens, the Chelsea Physic Garden, Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park and Chiswick House Gardens (one of several sphinxes pictured above).

First stop is the most recent cockapoo/spoodle etc 'meet', usually held on the last Sunday of each month around the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. My heart belongs to naughty Ted, of course, looking especially pert here

but it was also good to be able to introduce him to gentle Max, and their owners to each other. Max is circumspectly enquiring about the endless rough and tumble Ted enjoys, fangs out in play, with his best friend Archie

and I have to say the cutest 'poo of the morning had to be this shaggy one year old, just adorable.

After the break-up, and coffee outside the Serpentine Gallery, I went to look at the other pavilions erected for the first time nearby - better as an ensemble than individually, and offering good perspectives. This one is through Yona Friedman's modular structure

while Kunlé Adeyemi's Summer House is an inverse replica of Queen Caroline's Pavilion, seen beyond its central arch.

This year's star by the Bjarke Ingels Group, sixteenth among the best of the main Serpentine Pavilions, is now being dismantled. I feel lucky to have caught it for the last time on the most perfect afternoon.

Another blue-sky afternoon shed light on some Danish* junior bandsfolk who'd piled off a bus by the Albert Memorial and entertained me on my way to a Monday Opera in Depth class.

Meanwhile Kew's star attraction, the Hive, looks good in all weathers. I've devoted enough time to it already so no more pics from within, just a distant glimpse

and some pictorial reminders that when we last visited, the bee-friendly herbaceous borders were still going strong.

It's also the first time I've seen a gaggle of those most beautifully marked of all ducks, the Mandarins.

Not sure I'd clocked what the female of the species looked like either.

When I was a student in Edinburgh throughout the early 1980s, Calton Hill was very rarely a destination. Now that I stay a night or so a year at the quiet and cosy Parliament House Hotel when attending a Scottish Chamber Orchestra concert, it's on the doorstep and that whole east end of town, which gives way to so much nature, has become a stamping ground (hence the visits to the two exhibitions I wrote about recently). On this occasion I had the best room of all, right at the top, with a view directly across to the Dugald Stewart Monument on the hill which Robert Louis Stevenson used to chastise Edinburgh for commemorating Robert Burns less lavishly

as well as towards Salisbury Crags with the old Parliament Building in front

and Leithwards; here's a perspective slightly further round from the top of the hill which extends past Stockbridge and the New Town just as far as the top of the Forth Rail Bridge.

Calton Hill is now a popular tourist destination (I don't remember it being especially so in the 1980s), and in September the Chinese were flocking to Edinburgh. Yet I can only be proud of how beautiful this all is. Nobody minds now that William Henry Playfair's Grecian National Monument, begun to commemorate the fallen in the Napoleonic Wars, was left unfinished in 1829 and once dubbed, inter alia, 'the Pride and Poverty of Scotland'.

The central wing of Playfair's 1818 City Observatory is handsome

but I like better still the little temple on its east side.

Part of the building has now been requisitioned for Collective, an art group which was using one room to display the work of Hamish Young, homaging the Carrara marble quarries.

As for the views over which Stevenson waxed so lyrical, the classic one is with the Dugald Stewart Monument in the foreground looking west down Princes Street towards the castle

while looking over to Arthur's Seat,

you can well believe you're in the deepest Scottish countryside at one viewpoint, with no hint of the buildings in the valley between.

Holyrood Palace looks very handsome from above

and it was there I headed for the first of two superb exhibitions I've already chronicled in some detail. On the previous evening, I took a customary stroll from Parliament House Hotel to the Usher Hall via George Street and Princes Street Gardens

with the sun dazzling the eyes from due west, silhouetting the monument to the Royal Scots Greys Regiment.

A fortnight later I took another pleasant train journey north, this time to Leeds to review Opera North's excellent new production of Britten's Billy Budd for The Arts Desk. I stayed with fellow contributor Graham Rickson and his partner and daughter in Chapel Allerton, a good place to be based for an excursion to what Leeds claims is the largest public park in Europe, Roundhay. Surely Richmond** must be bigger? No matter, there are so many gems studded around the park, not least Canal Gardens over the main road

and somewhat Chelsea Flower Show-ish recreations of famous sites like the Generalife of the Alhambra.

But the main glory is the sweep from the Mansion,

where I had excellent Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon for lunch, down to the Waterloo Lake. The kid on the pavement and her brother had been assembling neat rows of conkers.

Connecting to the Greek Revival on Calton Hill, Thomas Nicholson, who bought an estate which had once been a Norman hunting ground, had his residence begun in 1811. In another link, former soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars worked on the construction of  the lower lake, hence its name.

As well as this Swan of Tuonela, there were plenty of Indian families sitting in the sun.

The walk back was a match for the beauties of Richmond Park or Hampstead Heath

with autumn crocuses flourishing in the shade

and plenty of green around the gate, outside which I took the No. 3 bus back to the centre of Leeds and (eventually) the train home.

By way of a Chiswick coda, the final snaps record a bike ride last Saturday afternoon, taken for exercise's sake since we'd postponed our Pilgrims' Way walk until Sunday. A wise decision, as it turned out, but the grey light in the park

cleared as I cycled back, the setting sun lighting up trees by the Thames

and the tower of Chiswick Parish Church

with some fine rose-lit clouds over the river.

Next photojournal stop: the walk from Borough Green to Trottiscliffe Church and Neolithic barrow and back - real countryside.

 *Laurent in a comment below had noticed the flag, which I hadn't, and pointed out the correct nationality. I had 'German' because that was the language on the side of the bus from which they'd dismounted.

**Digression re Richmond Park: bring it on, my new Europe-friendly party of choice, and away with you, craven scaremonger Zac Goldsmith. High hopes for this one.


Susan Scheid said...

How lovely to see these photographs of autumn gardens, as autumn here is on the wane. It seemed to go by so terribly fast, but I must remind myself that there are still the oaks, and somehow, once the brighter maples and all have dropped their leaves, there's a particular beauty to their more muted colors, rust and bronze and burgundy.

David said...

Of course your Hudson is much more aflame than anything here, and for maples I have to go to Kew. The home square is full of London planes, which are among the last to leaf - even more so since they're ruthlessly pollarded annually - but also the last to lose their leaves.

Oxford this weekend was super-advanced in autumnal garb, leaves falling constantly. And that grey murk which is so much part of this time of year means the colour's all the more welcome against that.

Laurent said...

Beautiful photos as always. I think the young men in uniform in front of the Albert Memorial, (they certainly do not built monuments like this anymore) are Danish if the flag they are carrying is an indication.

David said...

So they are, Laurent - I hadn't even noticed the flag. Shall adjust accordingly.

I bet your fall is beautiful now. It's snowing heavily in Sweden and Scotland is getting some snow too. We had a bit of a shock coming back from radiantly sunny Greece and 25 degrees last Sunday to wet, windy, 4-degrees Gatwick...