Highgate Lido / Lifegardening

Someday this was a beach.

Sea sounds will still reverberate.

Perhaps they are ancient echoes of a soon-to-be Brighton.

I think perhaps a lifeguard chair ought to be in view.

Perhaps people will bring their buckets and plant waves of nasturtiums crashing up the shingle.

A floral wave machine.

And the inevitable ice cream truck.

People came here for leisure, and pleasure.

Some still do.

Not many, and the pleasures are a bit more opaque.

It’s a bit scary how leisure, escape, and displacement can get all mixed up.

Where flight and refuge are indistinguishable.

All the more reason for that lifeguard’s chair.

Because the shore is where things collect.

Brought together by waves, and gravity.

In jumbles, and job lots.

For beachcombers to contemplate, and sometimes to say hello and goodbye in the same moment.

All that arriving and departing can be exhausting.

So perhaps we should be making these places more welcoming, more salubrious.

Perhaps by creating some tidepools, or something a bit more organised, more garden-like.

A place to gather and marvel before the next wave sweeps in.

Waypoint 30

All Terrain Vehicle? Mars Rover?
missions of discovery
The rover heads toward a colourful and richly featured outcrop. There are things to be discovered, examined, and to fire the imagination. Not just the objects themselves, but the sense of possibility inherent in ths sort of landscape.
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One thing we can do is look at the kinds of plants that occur. Pretty quickly we stop to look at the coltsfoot, which we mistakenly thought of as butterbur – which it resembles in leaf shape, but not size. I also think of butterbur as a waterside plant, but this is in about the most arid soil around. Maybe it’s not the plant I’m thinking of.20150524_125213
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Next to it is a clump of flytipped garden cuttings – holly, clematis – or something like it. But it’s the abstracted shape that’s interesting. Or is that about how the mind finds a pattern in the lines of stems? I’m thinking of Stick Around, the new project we’re running at the orchard. But it’s also nest-like, hair like, maybe even turban-like. Various images come to mind. The patterns start to shift around, the bundle seems to take on a variety of shapes. There’s a whirling vortex of a galaxy in there.


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Mabey on verges

This is a placeholder for a comment about maintaining agricultural landscapes – without and within cities. It’s from Richard Mabey’s Roadside Wildlife Book, pp 34-37.

Before formal verges existed, there was no problem. The land at the edge of a road was normally just part of the adjacent farmland, and was kept tidy because cattle were put out to graze on it. This, of course, is still done along many minor roads in upland Britain.

The vast new area of verge created along the Enclosure roads saw the advent of the ‘lengthsman’, a labourer responsible for the maintenance of the verges along a fixed length of highway. These he would cut meticulously with a hand scythe, sparing individual flowers and young seedling trees at his own discretion. If he had the necessary skills he might also deal with the hedging and ditching along the same length of road, scything in the summer and laying in the winter. Very little of this crop was wasted. The scythed grass was raked up for hay, and the hedge—trimmings used for firewood.

This gentle and discriminating cutting regime, allowing the herbage to grow naturally for much of the summer, produced a sward in which a multitude of flowering plants were able to flourish, bloom and set their seed.

Hand-scything (supplemented by cutting with haymowers] continued up until the end of the 1950s. By then the continued increase in the length of road needing maintenance and the mounting costs of hand cutting had made it uneconomical. Therefore when powerful chemical weedkillers became available the Highways Authorities were very quick to adopt them. They were a potentially cheaper and longer-lasting alternative to cutting.

There’s also this interesting observation made in passing on p37, but which underscores a lot of my thinking

There are a number of factors which have brought about this change in attitude. Most significant is probably the increasing realisation of what a crucial role verges play in our landscape Pattern. They are no less important than classic beauty spots lust because we tend to take them for granted.