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.
Reading about Swan Upping, I found that in the early 20th century the ceremony began in Central London. It now starts at Sunbury-on-Thames because no swans nest on the river in Central London and few swans are seen there. This is a pity. The river landscape would be more beautiful if there were swans to be seen. The Thames, is far the most important landscape feature in Central London, and in 1496, the Venetian Ambassador’s secretary wrote that ‘it is truly a beautiful thing to behold one or two thousand tame swans upon the River Thames, as I, and also your Magnificence have seen, which are eaten by the English like ducks and geese’. We could get the swans back by feeding them, preferably with vegetable matter but a little bread would do little harm. But could the swans be persuaded to nest on floating islands, as they do on the island in Brayford Pool (Lincoln?). See webpage on The re-introduction of swans to Central London.
The Swan Island (with a willow tree) and the recently made floating islands in Brayford Pool (Lincoln)
Otherwise, this may prove to be a video of CENTRAL LONDON’S LAST SWAN
The previous video argued that London’s Thames beaches are much safer than the beaches below the Seven Sisters and Dover white cliffs. This video looks in more detail at the availability of public stairs down to the foreshore. They have been in decline for 3 centuries and the twentieth century was the period of sharpest decline. ‘The Authorities’ by which I mean the London boroughs and the Port of London Authority, discouraged access for reasons of health and safety. If logic ruled, these Authorities would be even more opposed to horse riding, boxing, crossing roads, cycling and foreign travel. Fortunately, logic guides this blog – which therefore calls for a landscape strategy for the visual, ecological, archaeological and functional aspects of London’s Thames foreshore and beaches.
The Health and Safety Executive believes that ‘complying with health and safety regulations was often used as a “convenient excuse” for organisations to justify unnecessary decisions.’
Londoner’s require a right to roam on London’s beaches and, wherever possible, a public access route along the entire foreshore.
The Port of London Authority PLA does not encourage access because it was set up to manage the port, commercially, for maritime shipping. It gives safety considerations as a reason for not spending money on public goods. But the Seven Sisters Country Park is a much more dangerous place and is managed for recreation, conservation and wildlife. My suggestion is to transfer the amenity responsibilities of the PLA to a Landscape Agency and to bring both bodies within the GLA Greater London Authority family of public authorities. Construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel will make the water much cleaner and the beaches more desirable.
A 747 comes in to land on the main runway at London’s Olympic Airport. The Terminal, designed by Zaha Hadid, was previously an Aquatic Centre
A 747 pilot mistook a footpath in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a runway and the Aquatics Centre for an Airport Terminal. The passengers disembarked safely. After a short walk to Stratford International Station many remarked that it was a much easier journey into London than from Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick airports. A journalist on board contacted the Civil Aviation Agency. No one was available for interview but a spokesperson issued a written statement saying that the plane must have ‘come in below the radar’. Another spokesperson, for the Olympic Development Authority, said they wanted to generate revenue from the Park and it was only a trial. One wonders.
London has two excellent greenways: one of them was planned by Henry VIII and runs through the Royal Parks. The other was planned by a landscape architect (Sir Patrick Abercrombie) and runs on the South Bank of the River Thames from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge. The video explains the histories of the routes and how the Lost Garden of Whitehall Palace could and should be a link between the two greenways.
London’s geography is confusing for the pedestrian and the cyclist. A 6-mile London Greenway, running from Kensington Palace to Tower Bridge would create a great east-west spatial corridor, ‘green’ in the sense of environmentally wonderful and a ‘way’ in the sense of a traffic-free pedestrian concourse passing near many of London’s best tourist attractions: the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre, Tate Britain, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, the Lost Garden of Whitehall Palace, St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace and Gardens.
Whitehall Palace’s Lost Garden could link the Royal Parks Greenway to the London Thames Greenway
The Ministry of Defense (the building on the right in the photograph below) occupies the site of the main buildings of Henry VIII’s Whitehall Palace. The architect preserved a fragment of Queen Mary’s Stairs and the Ministry kindly allow public access to what was Queen Mary’s Garden. We could admire them even more if the parterre’s shown on Knyff’s drawing of the garden were to be restored. Sadly but understandably, the Ministry keeps Henry VIII’s Whitehall Palace Wine Cellar for private use.