diamond geezer

 Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thames Barrier Park, Silvertown

The London Dockland Development Corporation had a tough job on its hands trying to get people to move to the Royal Docks. Why would anyone want to live on a forgotten industrial site beside a murky grey estuary? So they carved out a big square park down by the river, on the site of a contaminated tar works, and tried to make it as lovely as possible in an attempt to boost property prices. And it appears that they were successful. Thames Barrier Park was opened in Silvertown as long ago as 2000, and the surrounding area is only just starting to catch up.

The Green Dock, Thames Barrier ParkThis is not so much a park as a big lawn scattered with landscape features. The most striking of these is a deep broad chasm, filled with undulating yew hedgerows, which cuts diagonally across the park. It's best seen in the summer, but the greens and browns are photogenic enough in winter sunlight. At the northern end is a fountain plaza, once home to 32 dancing waterspouts, now alas fenced-off around 32 bare holes in the stone floor. The southern end is rather lovelier. The grass rises gently to a wooden Pavilion of Remembrance, sort-of modern Chinese in style, with a flat roof supported on 26-foot-high poles. From the embankment there's an excellent very-close-up view of the Thames Barrier, with nine piers glinting above the low tide mud. Another long gravel path criss-crosses the park from corner to corner. And, to either side, great white housing blocks look down onto a much enjoyed local amenity.

Thames Barrier Park is a fine place for a stroll with the pushchair, or a game of cricket on the lawn, or a romp in the play area, or a good long stare out across the Thames. The 1km periphery is just right for a jog, or for taking a hound or two for a circular walk. Wrap up warm and enjoy the views, or maybe wait until spring and sprawl out in one of the wildflower meadows with a good book. Or maybe you'll end up hiding from the elements in the much-frequented coffee shop in the Visitor Pavilion by the DLR station, open at weekends especially for those who can't go anywhere without caffeine and muffins.

Oh yes, this is a very civilised park, very millennial, very 'new Silvertown'. I rather like it.
    Lyle Park, Silvertown

But there was already a park in Silvertown, just a couple of hundred yards up the road, built three quarters of a century earlier. You wouldn't guess it was here - Newham Council don't signpost it from the main North Woolwich Road. But take a few steps up a sidestreet, past a row of council houses, and you can enter a proper old municipal mudpatch. At the entrance is a threadbare patch of lawn, close to the tennis courts where you might spot a runty Staffs terrier padding about between the lobs. Mind where you step.

This is Lyle Park, a thin strip of land donated to the local populace by sugar magnate Sir Leonard Lyle in 1924. The big Tate and Lyle factory isn't far away, and the employees needed somewhere for their infrequent recreation. I bet they were extremely grateful at the time. Follow the narrow path down to the right, beneath the piled-up chemical canisters, and you'll reach the main body of the park. It's not huge - it's just a single unkempt football pitch with a dusty path around the perimeter. The changing rooms and toilets are firmly padlocked, and look like they've been closed for years. In the northwest corner is a WWI memorial drinking fountain, relocated behind some drooping shrubbery in the hope that passing yobs won't notice it.

Harland & Wolff gates, Lyle ParkThe whole place is hemmed in on three sides by up-close industrial units, quite at odds with the open expansive feel of the newer park to the east. And considerably emptier. There's nigh nobody here, just a single mum from the local estate and her quietly-rampaging kids. Up the steps to the broad riverside terrace, where the bandstand used to be, stand two grand iron gates erected across a flower bed. They used to grace the entrance to the Harland and Wolff shipyard downriver, but now live out their retirement unseen and unnoticed. A pair of empty benches overlook the water's edge, looking out across nothing much of immediate interest. And yet the council's gardeners have obviously gone to a lot of effort to plant out each border with due care and attention. Heather, crocuses, daffodils, snowdrops - all bloom here for the benefit of the handful that come to enjoy.

Oh yes, this is a very ordinary park, very municipal, very 'old Silvertown'. I rather love it.

[and I bet most of you Londoners have never been to either]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream