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Saturday, 30 March 2019

London's new roof garden at 120 Fenchurch St

An imaginative roof garden has opened on the 15th floor of a just-built office block at 120 Fenchurch St in the City. It’s free for the public to visit and unlike the nearby Sky Garden at the WalkieTalkie, you don’t have to book in advance - just turn up.
The garden is surrounded by a high glass wall that gives some protection from the wind. On a sunny March day, the flower beds were full of daffodils and tulips.
A striking water feature runs through it, and there are plenty of wooden benches, popular at lunchtime with office workers. (Bring your own sandwiches, though there will soon be a restaurant one floor down.) The pergola that covers the central area is designed to be smothered in wisteria in early summer - dozens of vines have been planted to grow up the struts. There are also fruit trees, just coming in to blossom at time of writing.
A lot of thought has gone into the planting, ensuring that there will be an ever-changing display of seasonal colour.
The garden covers the entire roof, some 2,800 sq m, and has 360° views that range from the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie to St Paul's and Tower Bridge.
When you exit the lift on the way out, it’s worth stopping for a few moments to admire the digital art installation on the ceiling of the entrance hall (below), with stunning moving images, mostly taken from nature. 
The building, One Fen Court, is designed by Eric Parry Architects on behalf  of  the insurance company Generali. The garden can accommodate just over 200 people at once, so while access should usually be fast, there may be some queues, especially on a sunny lunchtime. It's open Mon - Fri 1000 – 2100 in summer,  1000 to 1830 in winter (October 1 to March 31). This live link shows how many people are actually there:

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Cherry Blossom time in London

Spectacular cherry blossom outside Swiss Cottage library in N.W. London. This avenue of trees is in the little park right by the Jubilee line stop - no need to visit Japan!

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Along the Dollis Valley Greenwalk

Q. What do the Ice Age, finches, St Cyril, ravens and an Art Deco Cinema have in common?
A. They all featured in our walking group’s March ramble up the Dollis Valley Greenwalk.
We’ve been following the Dollis for some time, and were tackling the section that runs from North Finchley to Barnet Underhill. As we started out, our walk’s leader, John, produced two unexpected facts  – this valley goes back to the fourth Ice Age, and was likely to have been cut by melt waters from the glacial ice that reached Finchley when the ice sheets were at their maximum extent. (Geologists term it the Finchley Gap.)  Also, he said, once upon a time flocks of finches frequented the area, hence the name, first recorded in the early 13c.
St Cyril was the next surprise. As our walk continued downhill into the valley, by Woodside Park we came across a very unusual little building – the first wooden church built in London since the Great Fire of 1666, and dedicated to him. St Cyril of Turau (826 – 869AD) was a Greek missionary who brought Christianity to the Slavic nations. The church was consecrated in 2016, and is a reminder of home for members of the local Belarusian community, many of whom moved to the UK after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. Its design, though modern, includes many traditional features, such as the domed spire and shingled timber roof.
When we reached the Dollis Brook we found it in full spate, thanks to some recent heavy rain. The Greenwalk runs alongside it for about ten miles, linking areas of countryside and public open space. It includes grassland, thorny hedgerows and woodlands with oak, hazel, ash, field maple and wild service tree. It’s a leafy haven for nature lovers and dog walkers, and a lot of care has gone into its planning and conservation.
One field had been brightened by a swathe of daffodils, and everywhere branches were coming alive with spring blossom.
The area we were walking through once produced hay for London’s horses. Today, part of Brook Farm Open Space continues this tradition; the managed meadows beside the stream are mown annually and provide a summer habitat for flowers, butterflies and insects.
Surprisingly, the only birds visible that morning were crows, although there was a lot of twittering coming from hedgerows. There were several tall trees beside the path. One looked at first glance to be housing a number of bird nests – these turned out to be clusters of mistletoe, soon to be hidden by leaves.
The path was rather muddy, but we watched our footing and were delighted to have sunshine all the way. Towards the end, by Underhill's playing fields, the back gardens of what looked like almshouses could be glimpsed behind a hedge. A minor detour to their entrances in Grasvenor Avenue revealed these were Ravenscroft Cottages, part of the Jesus Hospital Charity set up in 1679 by James and Mary Ravenscroft for the care and support of six ‘poor and ancient women’.
A coat of arms bearing three ravens is on the wall by the front gate. The first almshouse was in nearby Wood Street, but many more were built in subsequent years and there are now 54 of them in the area.
Our final surprise was a bit away from the Greenwalk – actually on the Great North Rd, and spotted as we waited for a bus home. It's the grand Art Deco facade of the Everyman Cinema.  Originally an Odeon, it was designed by Edgar Simmons and opened in 1935 with a Moorish-style foyer and an auditorium that mixed Moorish and Art Deco styles. It has had major refurbishments over the years, being converted into a five-screen complex, and was reopened in 2000 by Emma Bunton (Baby Spice). It closed in 2015, but then became an Everyman. It now has listed building status, so hopefully will grace the area for many years to come.