Thursday, 15 August 2013

Olympic Park one year on

Please indulge me as I relive a few Olympic/Paralympic horticultural memories, and introduce a glimpse of the park as it was in 2012, and as it is in 2013.  This time a year ago (plus a couple of weeks) I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the Olympic Stadium and grounds, a few days before the opening ceremony.  I'd applied to be a Games Maker, and was accepted, but with great disappointment I had to withdraw due to the old ME, which I thought I'd be over when I'd first applied for the post a few years back. 

I was still generously invited to the final practice for the opening ceremony. It was fantastic: one of the best nights of my life- and the first thing that overwhelmed me was the stunning -and I have to say unexpected-  brilliance of the plantings immediately around the stadium and throughout the grounds. A-MA-ZING!  As I entered the park there were audible intakes of breath as the other guests saw the flowers for the first time, and then got on their mobiles to tell family and friends (me too!)
My first view of the stadium

This purple-mix photo was taken on a return visit- we were extremely fortunate in getting most of the Olympic and Paralympic tickets we applied for, so we got repeated views of the gardens too, which really held up over time.
The plantings were consistently good, a well maintained loosely structured "wild" effect. Prairie planting sat alongside areas themed by world regions. And they were really drawing in wildlife to this part of London which I well remember used to be a repository for piles of  tyres, fridges and old cars- all leaching toxic waste into the River Lea.

This plant (I later found out) is a Korean Angelica. Bad picture, but it was absolutely plastered with bees.  When I returned late in the season for a Paralympic event I took a couple of seeds (honestly there were tons, and they were just falling on the ground!), but now I can't find them!

Lots of umbilleferous (or however you spell cow parsley- like flowers) really attracted the insects including this damsefly.

The flowers complemented the broad sweep of the paths

Cornflowers mixed with grasses providing a relaxing area

I've returned to the former Olympic Park twice this year, including the first day a small section of it was opened to the public (it's just a short bus ride or 45 min walk away).
I was looking forward to seeing how the beautiful grounds have held up. Well the story at the moment is that there is absolutely nothing to see of the plants which so brightened the visits to the Park last year. Nothing. Some really dull wasteland weeds (not even Rosebay Willowherb!) Nothing else.

The story is the same all over the Park I've been told. The great news is the Lea and surrounding reedbeds look good still, and there is plenty of birdsong in that area and wee fish in the tributary streams.  There have been a number of trees planted, and some new beds around a lovely well-designed beech-clad cafe (approximately on the site of the basketball stadium). The flowerbeds around this are ok, slightly unimaginative, and a bit sparse at the moment, but with potential! 

I look forward to the Park's development over the next few years. The hard landscaping has held up well, and there is plenty of potential for wildlife and remodelled flowerbeds. I'll certainly visit many times again, especially if the cake at the new cafe is as good as the first time we went!  I do wonder though if the gardens will ever reach the same high standard as 2012's golden Para/Olympic year.


  1. What a shame that they haven't kept the gardens going - that would have been a worthwhile legacy.

  2. The park is unfinished so I'm hoping they might return! But I agree, surely continuity would have been better, especially for the bees and other insects!