Guiding during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic

London Blossoms

This week, London’s new BLOSSOM GARDEN, in QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, was formally opened by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The ceremony was hosted by BBC TV’s Gardeners’ World presenter Arit Anderson.

The Mayor arrived to glorious singing by the London International Gospel Choir.

In attendance were the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, key workers from the National Health Service, Transport For London and other frontline organisations, designers Edible Bus Stop and Davies White Landscape Architects, London concrete artist Junior Phipps, local residents and community groups, some of whom had contributed to the design, and other invited guests.

The Opening Ceremony of the London Blossom Garden, May 2021. Image by Mary Sewell

In their speeches, Arit Anderson and Hilary McGrady, Director General of the National Trust, thanked Bloomberg, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and all those who had contributed to the creation of this new Garden

Earlier this year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan marked the anniversary of the first national lockdown by planting the final two trees in the London Blossom Garden. In his speech, he said: “The new public garden is a place to join together to remember the more than 19,000 Londoners who have tragically died, to reflect on our own experiences of the pandemic and pay tribute to our key workers.”

Construction of the Blossom Garden in spring 2021. Image by Mary Sewell

Writer Jay Bernard recited poetry. After a minute’s silence to remember those claimed by the pandemic, Sadiq Khan and Hilary McGrady cut the tape and the London Mayor clapped along to the London International Gospel Choir’s spirited singing.

Rings of 9 and 7 Trees. Image by Mary Sewell

The Blossom Garden commemorates the Victims of the Covid-19 pandemic and is a tribute to the ongoing role played by our Key Workers. 33 trees, representing our 33 London boroughs, planted in an arrangement of 17, 9 and 7 trees – provide a space for Londoners to contemplate and reflect on what the pandemic has meant to our city and world. There are 8 different species, including cherry, plum, hawthorn and crab apple trees, which will bloom each spring, to mark the start of the first lockdown in 2020. These ‘Blossom Circles’ are the first to be planted in a National Trust-inspired project in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

17 Trees on the bank above. Mary Sewell

 

THE “ORCHARD PROJECT”

Each spring will bring yet more blossom to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at the “ORCHARD PROJECT” on Mandeville Place, where fruit trees have been planted to celebrate the achievements of British athletes in the Paralympic Games in 2012. Mandeville Place is named after Stoke Mandeville hospital where, at the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Sir Ludwig Guttmann organised Wheelchair Games for injured WW2 veterans in 1948. This developed into the first official Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960.

The trees are from the home counties of gold winners, underlining the link between orchards and health. To start, 34 fruit trees were planted, for the 34 Paralympic gold medals won by Team GB in 2012, but now there are 55 trees. They are a great geographical spread and a wonderful mix of cookers and eaters, apples, damsons, cherries and pears.

3 new apples have been created:

For one, the name ‘Paradice Gold’ was chosen in a national schools competition. The name reflects the Paralympic values of Determination, Inspiration, Courage and Equality, while also linking back to Paradise and the Garden of Eden. In many cultures ‘paradise’ is an orchard, including the ancient Greek Elysium, and Celtic Avalon (land of apples).

Core Blimey’ was a new variety used in the planting to reflect the London based medal winners.

Trinity’ apple trees were also planted. These were developed by Polish Londoner Jerzy Bartoszewicz. The name ‘Trinity‘ also reminds us of the Agitos, symbol of the Paralympic Games, and of The Judgement of Paris contest between three beautiful goddesses, for which the prize was a golden apple. Jerzy originally named it ‘Trinity because it has pink blossom, pink skin on the fruit and pink flesh within. The name and colour resonated well with the 2012 Olympics.

Fruit Trees on Mandeville Place. Photo by Mary Sewell

Churchman Landscape Architects and Studio Weave worked with local disability groups and took inspiration from the use of the apple in the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening ceremony. The pavilion incorporated the Truce Wall signed by the world’s Paralympic athletes. The signatures were not indelible, but the wall was upcycled into the pillars forming the pavilion. Espalier trees form the walls with trees extending the canopy.

Apple Blossom on Mandeville Place. Image by Mary Sewell

Apple Blossom on Mandeville Place

Mandeville Place was officially opened to the public on 27 May 2015. On that day, hundreds of children joined a wassail party, a traditional ceremony to bring luck and fruitfulness to the new orchard as it starts to grow.

In the last year, during the pandemic, the 227 hectare/560 acre Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been a welcome open space for East Londoners. The 60 km long Jubilee Greenway, which passes alongside the Park, has been much appreciated by walkers, joggers and cyclists. The Jubilee Greenway was created in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, 60 years after she acceded to the throne in 1952.

There are many more gardens to discover, like the Great British Garden and the 2012 Gardens. Of course there are also world class sports facilities, the new International Quarter, Stratford Waterfront with the East Bank culture and education centre and much more besides.

Take a tour with a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, to explore all of the above and much more besides. If you can’t get here right now, why not take a virtual tour?

 

About the author:

Mary Sewell is a Blue Badge Tourist guide, City of London guide, Clerkenwell & Islington guide and member of the Hackney Society. She specialises in many aspects of East London, also in Parks & Gardens and guides in German and French. Mary is available for walking, cycling, coach and virtual tours www.guidedtours.uk.com. Copyright of all photos is Mary Sewell.