Friday, 10 August 2012
In the shadow of the tallest spire on Harrow On The Hill lies the Peachey tomb and its neighbouring Elm, clustered on a terrace amid numerous time-tested graves slipping into ruin down the slope. Lord Byron declared this "spot of my youth!" in St Mary's churchyard his favourite place, throughout his childhood at Harrow school he'd wile away his time sitting in the chequered shade looking out towards Windsor on the horizon and making initial drifts into poetry. A slab installed by Sir George Sinclair (the son of Byron's schoolfriend) stands alongside the tomb bearing Byron's wistful 'Lines Written Beneath an Elm in the Churchyard of Harrow' from 1807. When his daughter Allegra died in Italy, aged just five years old, Byron sent the body to buried near the tomb, where it resides today in an unmarked plot.
Today you can still see the Thames crawl its way through the distant landscape. The tomb itself, now cracked with weeds and falling into disrepair, slumps in a black iron cage, whilst Byron's Elm towers (despite several lightning strikes) magnificently into the sky, glistening with cobwebs, bark greened with lichen, arms outstretched above an undergrowth of discarded beer cans and dead leaves.
"Take, while thou canst, a lingering last farewell!"
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
One of the pledges of London's 2012 Olympic legacy commitment was to turn its once largely industrial Stratford site, through which the River Lea and its navigation channels wind, into Britain's biggest urban park built for a century. They've certainly achieved a lot, completely re-drawing what went before. Landscaping the 110 acres into a multitude of designed wildernesses, the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) have worked wonders dropping bike paths and walkways into the valley strata of the Olympic Park. Whilst the area has been substantially depolluted and opened up, the focus on reconstructing the marshland otherness that came before lends the park a surreal tone, full of coloured hills of wild flowers, clinical habitats and strange reed beds laced with power cables and storm drains. The grasslands feel installed amongst the poncho bins awaiting photocalls, a huge spectator screen stands on stilts in the middle of the river, even the flat roof of a security cabin is scattered with seed and turfed. This is nature improved into something orderly, decorative and reassuring, many trees are wrapped in printed butterflies, logs are stacked with symmetry, with the knotweed vanquished, hogweed and buddleia are planted as pleasing alternatives. The overall effect leaves you with a disconcerting distrust of the environment as you walk past hidden pipes combed over in grass, loudspeakers disguised as green mushrooms and plastic grey "rocks" with other agendas. In terms of wildlife I saw one Honey bee and a group of four young Mallards, but then again it is early days. Here's a few images taken yesterday showing the odd nature of this Olympic simulated wilderness held in its unnatural state for at least another few weeks...