Alan Titchmarsh on creating a “Stylish Garden”

Hard to know what I would write if the Sunday Express asked me to do a few hundred words on garden design but I can put some helpful advice in one sentence: ‘don’t take advice from Alan Titchmarsh‘. The concept of ‘style’ on which his article rests is of use in understanding garden history and restoring historic gardens but it often leads amateur designers astray. Or maybe the problem is more basic: to do a design you have to be a designer. Many owner-designers have proved that a design training is not essential – and some professional designers have proved that it is not sufficient. But, somewhat tautologically, you do have to be a good designer to produce a good design – and a fixation on styles or ‘stylish gardens’ is unhelpful.

Tivoli Companion,Tim Cawkwell – book review by Tom Turner

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell

Tim Cawkwell’s 78-page book Tivoli Companion is, scholarly, enjoyable and puzzling in equal measure. The puzzle, for a reviewer, is the intended audience. I guess I know more about Tivoli than most general readers but a good deal less than those with specialist knowledge of Italian garden history. So perhaps the guide was written for people like me. But, are there many other people like me with an in-between knowledge of Tivoli?
The title A Tivoli Companion is well-chosen, reminding one of Georgina Masson’s Companion Guide to Rome. The Introduction is explicit that ‘this is not a guidebook that will tell you where to stay and what to eat’ but also states that ‘Tivoli is a rich enough place to have its own guidebook’. So is it a ‘guidebook’? Not really. The contents page identifies the main section of the text as an ‘Essay’ and this is the truth of the matter. It is akin to an extended magazine article. About half the text is about Tivoli’s three famous gardens: Hadrian’s Villa, the Villa d’Este and the Parco Villa Gregoriana, with their history and character dealt with rather glancingly. The author’s photographs tell us more but not as much as they could have done with more consistent and informative captioning. The book has only one plan. Hand-drawn and with almost unreadable labelling. But the information is useful and interesting: ‘Tivoli and R. Ariene in 17th century showing channel dug under the town to the NE corner of Villa d’Este’.
Just possibly, the puzzling aspect of the Companion is explained by the information about the author on p.78. Most of his writing has been about cinema. His literary approach is filmic. I am pretty confident that Calkwell’s Companion is, to date, the most extensive discussion of Tivoli’s graffiti in the English language,

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2015)

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele, Priscilla Elliott – book review by Tom Turner

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele by Priscilla Elliott

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele by Priscilla Elliott

I opened this short book with some puzzlement, wondering why the author wrote it when a longer book had been published in 1989 and revised in 2003 (Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect: An Account of the Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885-1971 Robin S. Karson). Elliott must surely have read Karson’s book but does not list it in her bibliography.
The explanation of Elliott’s approach lies in her title: her focuses is on the gardens Steele designed. They are explained with quotations from his letters and grainy old sepia photographs from the Library of Congress Archive.
Fletcher Steele’s career has parallels with that of Thomas Mawson (1861-1933). He was born 28 years after Mawson and the comparison is interesting. Both were strongly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and by its transformation into another Italian revival. In terms of design quality, the work of both men was less-inspired than the work of Jekyll and Lutyens. But in one respect Steel’s work is more interesting and important than Mawsons. Steele was interested in the modern world and keen to draw upon them. Mawson ridiculed the Art Nouveau style. Steele was attracted by the currents of Art Deco and Art Nouveau and interested in Abstract Art. This helped him achieve something Mawson never managed: a design classic – at Naumkeag – which Elliott sensibly illustrates on the cover of her book.
Though she lists and documents Steele’s gardens, Elliot is disappointingly quiet on stylistic issues and on Steele’s place in the histories of garden design and landscape architecture.
The Gardens of Fletcher Steele, American Landscape Architect by Piscilla Elliott (2014) is published by Guysborough Press 72 Cottage Street Melrose MA 02176

Great Gardens of London, Victoria Summerley – book review by Tom Turner

Good writing and good photography are real assets for garden books. Great Gardens of London was produced by a skilled investigative journalist working with two expert photographers. Victoria Summerley explains that the book is ‘aimed at residents and visitors alike’. Yes. But it is not particularly aimed at garden visitors. Or should I say ‘it is not aimea at all garden visitors’. The book’s first garden is that of the Prime Minister’s official London residence: 10 Downing Street. Doubtless it has been seen by many important visitors to London but I doubt if many travellers on omnibuses from Clapham are to be counted among their number.

Great Gardens of London by Victoria Summerley, Hugo Rittson Thomas, Marianne Majerus Frances Lincoln (2015) ISBN-10: 0711236119, ISBN-13: 978-0711236110

The book has a map and appendix with details of which gardens can be visited: 13 of the gardens are never open and 17 are open in various degrees. I did not know that Downing Street lets in a few visitors by ballot. Another appendix suggests more gardens to visit. 

America is said to have less of a class system but Winfield House, second in the book and the American ambassador’s London residence, is not part of the tourist circuit. No matter: the book is a great opportunity to see and read about these important gardens.

I don’t know whether to be pleased or sorry that PM Gordon Brown’s wife (Sarah) introduced raised vegetable beds to Downing Street. Good to think of the happy couple doing something useful with their time but I worry about how the beds fit into the garden aesthetically and about why they wanted the beds to be raised. Did they use railway sleepers? Raised beds are fashionable, and possibly a Tory idea, but my experience is that unless your ground is badly drained or polluted, or you want to avoid carrot fly, vegetables do better in unraised beds and need less watering. I’d like to know whether Downing Street harvests rainwater for its garden – or does it make unsustainable use of tap water? I was interested to read that Margaret Thatcher commissioned the Downing Street rose beds and that they contain a rose named after her. Great that it survived the dark age of Blair and Brown, much as the nearby statue of Charles I survived the Civil War. Do they use strips of iron to protect the adjoining lawn?

Sustainable gardening is high on the agenda for Winfield House. Even memos are composted. Just think how much Wikileaks trouble would have been avoided if the US had stuck to composting. Obama liked Winfield garden so much that he joked about wishing he had been Ambassador to London instead of President.

The gardens and parks in the book which are accessible to the public are well worth visiting, though most are flattered by the excellence of the photography. Eltham Palace Garden is an interesting place but, despite continued efforts by English Heritage, I find the quality of the gardens disappointing. Summerly sees Eltham as the product of ‘two dynasties’: the Tudors and the Courtaulds. But one does not sense their tastes in the design. It looks like a municipal park. English Heritage say the aim is restore Eltham to the style of the 1930s and they have used archive material to this end. Perhaps the problem is that the Art Deco style, which worked well for rebuilding Eltham Palace, was never resolved in English gardens. Fletcher Steele, as he showed at Naumkeag, could have done a much better job.

The garden of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill was ‘pretty dreadful’ before the Strawberry Hill Trust began a £9m restoration of the house and garden in 2009. Generally, I think individuals and trusts do a better job of this kind of work than bodies, like English Heritage, with national responsibilities. The Strawberry Hill Trustees have the wisdom to run a volunteer programme. Why don’t all publicly owned green spaces do this?

The next chapter is on Hampton Court, where much garden history research and restoration has been carried out. I am sorry that the book does not use historical drawings or plans but can understand that they might be thought unsuitable for a non-specialist readership.

Moving on, I was very pleased to find a chapter on the Downings Road Floating Gardens in Bermondsey. The wretched, unimaginative, blinkered bureaucrats of Southwark Council have been trying to get them removed for years. Their inclusion may help those who have long campaigned for their recognition and protection.

The book’s 30 gardens are categorised into five chapters. Some are unconvincing as groups. Chapter 4, on roof gardens, is a good group and a pleasure to discover. My dream is that London will become a Roof Garden City. This chapter shows what is possible. Most roof gardens are, understandably, not open to the public. But they are great places and, unlike most of the design styles represented in the book, they look contemporary. Jane Brown wrote of ‘the gardens of a golden afternoon’. Much though I like them, that afternoon continues to linger on beyond its natural lifespan. What London needs is a wealth of roof gardens. Unlike many capital cities, including Washington, Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow, London has a climate which is very well suited to the enjoyment of roofs – providing they are well planned and well designed. I hope the second edition of Victoria Summerley’s Great Gardens of London will include the University of Greenwich Roof Garden in Stockwell Street. And if space can be found, I’d like to have more discussion of garden design styles.

Tom Turner

Cotswold Garden Tour of Hidcote, Highgrove and private gardens

Chipping Campden garden tour

Chipping Campden is a ‘garden town’ in the Cotswolds

Chipping Campden is a small market town in the Cotswolds, described as ‘the most beautiful village street now left on the island’ (G.M. Trevelyan English social history, 1944). The Cotswolds is an area of gently rolling hills famous for its sleepy villages, fine gardens and concentrated ‘Englishness’. The June tour from Cotswold Walks starts with 3 days visiting its private gardens. They are open (for charity) only for a week in June. After that the guests move to another Cotswold town (Barnsley, Bibury or Cirencester) for visits to other gardens, including:

Hidcote Manor  was designed and created by an American, Major Lawrence Johnston and examplifies the Arts and Crafts style of garden design with well-designed  garden rooms and linking spaces.

Rockcliffe garden was designed by its owner, Emma Keswick and her taste shines through the the design.

Temple Guiting Manor garden was designed by a well-known designer at the Chelsea Flower Show, Jinny Blom

Barnsley House Garden was owned and designed by Rosemary Verey

Highgrove is the country home of HRH Prince of Wales. He has had a remarkable success as owner, patron, designer and part-time gardener.

Asthall Manor garden is owned and designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who also help Prince Charles with the design of Highgrove.

LAA Landscape Architects Website

LAA Landscape Architects Association

LAA Landscape Architects website

This blog has covered both designed gardens and landscape architecture for 7 years but have decided:

  • to use this blog for garden design, garden history and garden tourism
  • to use the LAA Landscape Architects blog for commentary on landscape architecture, urban design and planning – from me and, I hope, from others

I have not changed my mind about the relationship between the two subjects (please see What is the difference between garden design and landscape architecture?) but not everyone shares my interest in both areas of work.

Chelsea Flower Show, Sissinghurst, Wisley and Tatton Park Garden Tour

England is rightly famed as ‘the garden country’ and it would be a pity, surely, to visit England without seeing some of its gardens. So we recommend a 3-day classic gardens tour which includes visits to Chelsea, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, the RHS Wisley Garden and Tatton Park.

Chelsea Flower Show garden tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

The three main reasons for visiting the Chelsea Flower Show:

  • to see the show of flowers in the great tent
  • to see the show gardens which surround the great tent
  • garden-related shopping

The show is international. Flowers, products and garden designers come from around the world. So do the visitors. The demand for tickets is high and unless you buy a ticket long in advance of the show, or try your luck with ticket touts, there is little chance of getting in.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is, quite simply, the most famous garden in England. This is partly on account of its high design quality and partly because of the fame of its creators: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson.

Wisley RHS Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley is the home garden Royal Horticultural Society. It has a fantastic collection of flowering plants in every category: herbaceous plants, Alpine plants, flowering shrubs, trees – everything.

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden is set in a vast park designed by Lancelot Capability Brown. The garden has a Red Book by Humphry Repton and was largely designed by Joseph Paxton (who also designed the Crystal Palace in London) and was planned to give views of the Brown lake and deer park.

Tour of English gardens around Windsor and Bath

West of London garden tour

The country between Windsor and Bath has long been popular with people who are ‘tired of London’ and many of them have charming gardens made by famous designers. The Windsor to Bath Sisley Garden Tour provides opportunities to see them without the hassles of driving or finding places to stay. The route passes through beautiful countryside, lovely villages and cherished market towns, including Bath, Windsor, Marlborough, Malmesbury and Shaftesbury. The garden tour starts with a pick up from London Victoria Train Station or Heathrow Airport. The week includes visits to:-
Windsor Castle was built after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Set in a great hunting forest, now called Windsor Great Park, it became one of the royal family’s best-loved country homes.
Munsted Wood. This famous garden was the home of Gertrude Jekyll, the most famous Arts and Crafts garden designer and the author of many ever-popular books on planting design. The house was designed by Edwin Lutyens.
The Manor at Upton Grey. Designed by Gertrude Jekyll for a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, the garden is particularly interesting for the planting, which was fully researched and restored by Rosamund Wallinger.
Bury Court. It has a courtyard garden by Piet Oudolf, working with the owner, and a front garden by the minimalist garden designer Christopher Bradley-Hole.
West Green Garden. An old manor house with an admired twentieth century garden by Marylyn Abbott.
Bowood House is one of the best surviving examples of  Lancelot Brown’s Serpentine style of garden design. The serpentine lake and encircling tree belt can be seen from the Italian Garden – which was designed as a stage from which to view the surrounding landscape.
Iford Manor was designed by Harold Peto, an Arts and Crafts architect and garden designer. He owned the house and spent many years collecting statues and other features in Italy. The garden is beside a river in a remarkably tranquil, beautiful and isolated valley.
Stourhead is rightly famous as the best example of a ‘landscape garden’ designed to recreate the ‘landscape of antiquity’ as envisioned by Claude Lorraine and other great landscape painters.
Shute House Gardens were designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, the most famous English landscape architect of the twentieth century.
Abbey House Gardens were designed by a well-known designer who promoted postmodernism in gardens: Ian Pollard. It formed part of Benedictine monastery before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and is now a remarakable integration of new and old.
Though not part of the Sisley tour, it is easy to make a post-tour visit to Hampton Court  Palace Garden and the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.

Bath, in the west of England, could well be described as a 'garden city'

Pinjore Yadavindra Mughal Garden

Pinjore Gardens deserve more recognition as an example of the Mughal style. There is much more which could and should be done but the restoration work already carried out is good and the water features work most of the time. The lower section of the garden is of particular interest and with more work could become India’s best example of the ‘fruits and flowers’ approach to planting design which was once the predominant character of Indian gardens. Constance Villiers Stuart, who made the first serious study of Indian gardens, was well aware of this and wrote about Pinjore in her book: see C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals .

Edwin Lutyens read Villiers Stuart’s book when working on the design of New Delhi and Le Corbusier visited Pinjore when working on the design of Chandigarh. She surely influenced Lutyens design for the garden of the Governor’s Place in Delhi – and Corbusier might have done a much better job of Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex if he had learned more from Pinjore.



Should London be a National Park?

The current proposal for London to be a National Park appears, to me, ill-conceived. It is a great city and its open space planning needs staffing and funding, but I can’t see sufficient kinship with the national park concept. Let’s recall the history of the concept. It began in America as an idea for giving the new world something of similar cultural significance to the ‘monuments’ of the old world. So they chose tracts of unspoiled scenery. This appealed to the British. We did not have any unspoiled scenery so we chose areas of high scenic quality instead. Some parts of London undoubtedly do have high scenic quality – but they are already designated as conservation areas and enjoy protection within the planning system. What London does need is a Landscape Authority to get on with work on the All London Green Grid. If London were to have something more on like a National Park Authority it should be a Thames Landscape Agency, as argued in the above video. The Port of London Authority is making a mess of managing the river for anything other than commercial traffic.


Dry stone walling in Crossbones Garden, a 2015 Chelsea Fringe event

Dry stone walling is flexible; it does not use mortar; it is good for wildlife; it is a sustainable. The only minus points arise if fuel is used for quarrying and transporting the stone.
This video is of a Chelsea Fringe event in Crossbones Garden, near London Bridge Station. Participants receive a certificate of attendance at the end of the session. John Holt is a great teacher.

Lee Rigby Memorial bikers ride from Greenwich Park to Woolwich 22 May 2015

In addition to many other design objectives, public parks should be designed as good places to hold public events and demonstrations. The main avenue in Greenwich Park was not designed for this purpose but serves it very well, as here for a memorial event for a British soldier, Fusilier Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who was attacked and killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich. Rigby was off duty and walking along Wellington Street. Two men ran him down with a car, then used knives and a cleaver to stab and hack him to death. Armed police officers arrived five minutes later. The assailants, armed with a gun and cleaver, charged at the police, who fired shots that wounded them both. They were apprehended and taken to separate hospitals. Both are British of Nigerian descent, raised as Christians, who converted to Islam (info from Wikipedia).

Review of the show gardens at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show

Please see this page for video reviews of selected show gardens.
I’ve been too hot at Chelsea and I’ve been too cold. On Press Day, in 2015, I was too wet and too windswept. When the sun came out in the afternoon, the Press had to leave so that the Royal Family could enjoy the show. I’m not a republican, yet, but the rain did fall like stair rods. So what of the design quality of the Show Gardens? I thought some of the Fresh Gardens, on Royal Hospital Way, were better than most of the large gardens on the Main Avenue – some of which could be described as Stale Gardens.

Great Garden Design by Ian Hodgson – review

Ian Hodgson Great Garden Design book jacket

Ian Hodgson Great Garden Design book jacket

The Society of Garden Designers has produced a very good book on garden design. I commend it to anyone commissioning a garden and to future historians of garden design.
The section I like best, on Outdoor Experiences, deserves to become a book in its own right. There are only four sections, on Relaxing, Dining, Playing and Bathing.  But there are subsections, so that Dining includes Cooking Outside, Keeping Livestock and Growing Your Own.
This approach to garden design comes, in the UK, from John Brookes. His Room Outside, first published in 1969, launched British garden design on its profression from the Arts and Crafts Style to Modernism. In his introduction to Great garden design Brookes draws attention to the way in which ‘this book breaks down the overall plan of a garden and deals with the various sections and functions it may include’.
A failure to grasp the key principle of Modernism hindered, and hinders, the development of garden design. ‘Form follows function’ is the most convenient summary of Modern Movement principles but caused problems for garden designers. ‘What’ they wondered, ‘are the functions of a garden?’ My criticism of Great garden design is a weakness in the history and theory of garden design.
After Brookes’ Forward and an Introduction by Ian Hodgeson (the author) there is a chapter on Contemporary Garden Styles. A section on Sourcing Inspiration is followed by a section on Choosing a Style – which struck me as a return to the high Victorian eclecticism of Edward Kemp and the Mixed Style. It is followed by a menu of styles. Their names are Contemporary Formal, Urban Chic, Cottage and Country Style, Natural Style, Water Gardens and Subtropical Style. This is a departure from Modernism but I would not call it Postmodern and nor do I think the categories will be of use to those future garden historians who come across this useful and very well-illustrated book.
Great Garden Design was published 5th March 2015 by Frances Lincoln

Bring the royal barge, Gloriana, to Greenwich

Gloriana royal barge

Bringing Gloriana to Greenwich is a great idea

As explained on the video about Greenwich Park, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were rowed from Whitehall Palace to Greenwich Palace in a royal barge. So keeping Gloriana in Greenwich is a really great idea. The Gloriana is a 94-foot-long (29 m) royal barge which was privately commissioned as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. The project to build Gloriana was initiated by Lord Sterling, who liked the idea of a waterborne tribute to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The Greenwich Park video has a short clip of the Gloriana passing some suburban houses. She would look much better traveling between Whitehall and Greenwich – preferably with wealthy tourists paying a fortune for each trip. It costs £2,800 for a ceremony in the London Eye. How about £10,000 for a couple of hours on Gloriana? I would see it as a contribution to London’s urban design.

Is Greenwich Park London’s most interesting Royal Park?

I think the answer is ‘yes’ – and it should certainly be included in London garden tours. For a start, it is the oldest of London’s Royal Parks. Greenwich has associations with the period in British history most loved by the BBC and English schools. Only the 1930s and ’40s rival the Tudors.
Greenwich was enclosed by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, who also built what became the Royal Palace of Placentia. Henry VIII was born here. So was his daughter, Elizabeth I. The design and the design history are also of great interest. Greenwich Park began as a late-medieval Hunting Park with an Early Renaissance garden. It was then influenced by the Baroque Style in the seventeenth century by the Serpentine style in the eighteenth century and by the Gardenesque Style in the nineteenth century. The green laser beam is a Post-Abstract twenty-first century addition – and a great idea. The designers who influenced the park include Inigo Jones, André Le Nôtre, John Evelyn Christopher Wren, Lancelot Brown and John Claudius Loudon.

Please stop killing London's cyclists and pedestrians – give them good landscape architecture

Here is a video of the recent Stop Killing Cyclists protest march in Oxford Street. It was very well organised, with a theatrical dash, but did not get the media coverage it deserved. There was a massive police escort. The officers were very friendly to the marchers but I wonder if the relationship has become too cosy. The police would not have liked it but we might have achieved more if the die-in had taken place in Oxford Circus and if we had waited for the police to remove each and every demonstrator in a police van.

Tower of London Poppy Art Installation / Landscape Architecture

Here is the text of the above video reviews of Paul Cummins and Tom Piper’s Blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.
The poppy installation at the Tower of London is by Paul Cummins, a ceramic artist, with help from Tom Piper, a stage designer. Its name comes from a Derbyshire man who died in Flanders. He wrote of The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread. There are eight hundred and eight-eight thousand two hundred and forty six poppies: for each British and Colonial death in the First World War.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, told the House of Commons it was a stunning display, and extremely poignant.
The Washington Post described the installation as ‘a must-see on the tourist trail.
CNN John McCrae’s famous poem, which launched the poppy metaphor: In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place.
The Professor of the History of War at King’s College, observed that : Since the war is still generally misunderstood, such popular interest is encouraging, and the more people who have an opportunity to visit the poppies the better.
The Mayor of London called for the installation to be kept in place a bit longer. A spokesperson from the Historic Royal Palaces responded that The transience of the installation is key to the artistic concept, with the dispersal of the poppies into hundreds of thousands of homes marking the final phase of this evolving installation’.
The actress, Sheila Hancock, suggested that the poppies should be mown down by a tank to commemorate the horror of war.
Jonathan Jones, an art critic with The Guardian, also wanted more horror. He argued that In spite of the mention of blood in its title, this is a deeply aestheticised, prettified and toothless war memorial,
Robert Hardman, for the Daily Mail, responded by calling him a Sneering Left-wing art critic.
So what do I think? Well, as an art installation, it’s hard to fault. As a war memorial, one might think it lacks pathos. But the 1-for-1 symbolism and the fact that the poppies are frozen in time save it from being floral bedding.
For pure pathos a moat-filling tank of red liquid, inspired by Richard Wilson’s installation at the Saatchi Gallery, would have been more telling – and could have evolved into the water-filled moat the Tower needs. But I doubt if this would have raised any money for soldiers’ charities – as the poppies most certainly have done.

The Manali to Leh Highway & Landscape Change in Ladakh

Taking the footage for this video, in September 2014, was a good opportunity to reflect on landscape change in a hitherto remote region of India: Ladakh. There are many considerations:

  • Ladakh was an important sector on the of the Silk Road Network, particularly for north-south trade and travel between India and China. The video uses quotations from European travelers who undertook the journey c1850-1950.
  • Travel between Ladakh and Pakistan ended with the partition of India in 1947.
  • Travel between Ladakh and China ended with the closure of the border, by China, in 1949.
  • India responded by closing Ladakh to all travel and tourism
  • From 1949 until 1974 Ladakh was cut off and isolated as rarely in its history
  • Since 1974 Ladakh’s economy has become dependent on the army, which invests in roads. The military population of Ladakh is now greater than the civilian population but the army keeps its personnel largely separate from the local people.
  • Ladakh’s other post-1974 economic prop is tourism. In summer there are more tourists than locals in the regional capital, Leh.
  • Westerners, in the main, want Ladakh to remain an undeveloped and traditional region.
  • Ladakhis, in the main, want to experience the ‘luxuries’ of western civilization.

So what should be done? I think Ladakh would have done better, if it could, to have followed the development path of Bhutan. This involves a very cautious approach to development and a concentration on the luxury end of the tourism market.
As things stand, the best approach is probably the adoption a forward-looking development policy as firmly rooted as possible in the principles of context-sensitivity and sustainability. This policy is exemplified by the Druk White Lotus School and its Dragon Garden.
Romesh Bhattacharji, an Indian who knows Ladakh very well, wrote in 2012 of the new roads which will open up Zanskar that ‘Many people, all outsiders typically, I have met, however, also moan about the loss of the traditional way of life of the people of Zanska. The latter want a better way of life than just being museum relics for tourists’ It is a well-aimed criticism. But ‘traditional’ and ‘development’ need not be in opposition: a Middle Way is also possible, by design. The Druk School and Dragon Garden make a cameo appearance on the above video and are explained in more detail by the videos on the DWLS Dragon Garden Playlist.

Cycle infrastructure expenditure in the UK and Holland

Cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam (left) and London's Battersea (right)

Cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam (left) and London’s Battersea (right)

  • The UK spends £2/person/year on cycling
  • Holland spends £24/person/year.
  • So Holland has better cycling infrastructure.
  • The Dutch spend ten times as much on cycling as the British and they have ten times as many urban journeys/person (30%+ vs 3%+)
  • It figures

To make up for years of neglect, the UK should spend £50/person/year on cycling. When UK cycling infrastructure is as good as Holland’s, this can drop back to £25/year.
Just think, about this quotation from a Sky report on The British Cycling Economy.
The proportion of GDP spent on public infrastructure by the UK Government has been lower than government spending in many other countries, averaging around 1.5 per cent between 2000–2004 – around half of the investment occurring by governments in Italy and France. Despite rail accounting for only six per cent of total passengers in the UK, the sector received a subsidy of around £6.5b, almost equalling road investment, which carries the majority of journeys undertaken in the country. In addition, tax revenues from transport eclipse expenditure on transport by £14b, reflecting a net flow out of the sector from receipts. Cycling’s proportion of the UK transport budget is less than one per cent, whilst in the City of London, one of the UK’s larger cycling ‘hot spots’, cycling has been apportioned 0.45 per cent of the £135m transport budget, amounting to around £600,000.54 Currently, 10,000–15,000 cyclists commute into the Capital each day, which has increased by 52 per cent since 2007, and is forecast to quadruple by 2025.55 These macro and micro conditions continue to create the ideal milieu for cycling participation to increase across social strata, with significant benefits.