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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Will this green wall improve air quality in London?

I love the look of this green wall, installed last November to trap pollution at one on London’s busiest intersections  - the corner of Edgeware and Marylebone roads. It covers 200 square metres, is made up of 15 different evergreen and perennial plants (chosen to absorb pollution from exhaust fumes) and despite the gritty environment, seems to be thriving.

It's planted in an abstract pattern – unlike the green wall inspired by a Van Gogh painting which last year appeared outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The effectiveness is being monitored by scientists from Imperial College. It’s part of an initiative to promote cleaner air in the capital. Around 500 new trees and shrubs have appeared, including 200 lime trees along the A40 and 50 planted towers on Lower Thames St. With the Olympics coming up, London’s poor air quality is a hot topic, and this green initiative is seen as an attractive way of helping improve the situation.  

Monday, 23 April 2012

Sneak peek at Gloriana, the Diamond Jubilee royal barge

Here’s the Gloriana, the £1m boat that will lead the Diamond Jubilee Pageant along the Thames on Sunday, June 3. I spotted her moored by Richmond Bridge, where workmen were adding the final touches to the woodwork and gilding. On Wednesday, April 25 she will be taken downriver to Greenwich for a formal naming ceremony by the Queen.
The Gloriana was inspired by the barges seen on the Thames in the 18thc, and painted by Canaletto (left). She’ll be powered by 18 rowers, all in colourful costumes. But the Queen won’t be on the Gloriana. Because of security concerns, she’ll be following on a motor cruiser, the Spirit of Chartwell, which is being dressed in gold, purple and crimson for the occasion, with a gilded carving near the prow, and two thrones on a raised dais. There will also be flowers from the Queen's gardens and across the Commonwealth.
A thousand boats, ranging from kayaks, historic vessels and pleasureboats to steam boats, tugs, and the surviving Dunkirk ‘little ships’ will take part in the pagent. The flotilla will stretch back over seven miles, starting at Wandsworth and ending past Tower Bridge, and taking 90 minutes to pass any given point. A sight to remember.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Prince Charles's Ideal Home

He may have spent much of his life in palaces and castles, but the Prince of Wales is passionate about sustainable living and the need for cleaner, greener houses. Many of his ideas were the starting point for the Prince’s Arts and Crafts House at this year's Ideal Home Show in London which he visited (left, with Prince's Foundation Ambassador George Clarke) after the exhibition's official opening. Although the house is inspired by the 19th c movement which concentrated on quality, handmade design and furnishings, it's in tune with current environmental thinking and 70% more energy efficient than building regulations require. Its thick walls and natural materials such as clay, wood, lime and wool will keep it warm in winter and cool in summer, and the architects say its one wood-burning stove should be enough to heat the whole 2-storey house.

The Prince believes in fostering British craft, and this is evident in the d├ęcor, which includes stained glass windows, lino-cut wallpaper, hand-made tiles and traditional joinery.
 Out in the garden, visitors could see British-sourced materials, crafts and plants, with a strong emphasis on the edible. Planting also includes the Amelanchier, or ‘June Berry’ which flowers early and has edible berries in June, and Erythronium ‘dog’s-tooth violet’, another early flowering plant that thrives in the shade of small trees.

The house (left) will eventually end up on a residential site, where one lucky family will be able to live in a royal dream home. But there could be more - the Prince's Foundation is hoping to interest a commercial builder in the design.