diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Now that Time Out is on permanent hiatus, I wondered if there might be a gap in the market for a fresh pan-London listings presence.

But not doing your typical reviews of events, openings and establishments worth going to, because a multiplicity of online portals are attempting that. Instead how about reporting on places not worth visiting, venues worth skipping and experiences that aren't worth having, in a brand new kind of series called...

Things Not To Do

All too often we only hear upbeat reviews, positive reports and glowing feedback written by someone who was thrilled. Worse we face purple prose pasted from a press release by a propagandist who's been paid to promote the attraction. But all too often when we dutifully turn up we discover it was nothing special, or worse a waste of time and/or effort and/or money, because weasel words suckered us in when really it wasn't for us at all.

How much better to hear the truth before we go, or at least to be warned in advance that perhaps it won't be up our street. Here then is a prime potential example of an ignorable event, a proper Thing Not To Do.

Things Not To Do: Superbloom
(at the Tower of London, 1st June - 18th September 2022)

Those poppies in the moat were fabulous, weren't they, even if you could only look down on the red wave from above. So the good folk at Historic Royal Palaces have decided it might be worth flooding the moat with flowers again but this time to invite us down for a closer look.

Earlier this year they planted over 20 million wildflower seeds around the Tower of London in an attempt to create a beautiful naturalistic landscape primed to attracted pollinators and other biodiverse wildlife. They call it Superbloom.

If you think it's all a bit upbeat so far, rest assured that was just the factual intro. Wait a few more paragraphs and the barbs will really start flying.

In real life a superbloom is a Californian phenomenon, only appearing when the desert bursts into flower after a rare spell of rain. The Tower's display is entirely artificial and has had the benefit of a team of gardeners on site to water it, but has still been very much at the mercy of the British weather. Alas not only was spring 2022 much drier than usual but early April nights proved somewhat chilly, all of which caused the display to emerge weeks later than hoped. Anyone who prebooked a ticket for the first half of June was therefore invited to rebook or come again or even request a refund, because a still-green moat isn't what they paid to see.

It looks a lot better now with waves of colour in reds and yellows and pinks and purples. But it doesn't look amazing. The flowers are bright but not dazzling, the overall ambience is of dense wildflower meadow rather than unique landscape, and the path weaving through has had to be given a few sinuous wiggles to provide more interest. Occasionally the designers have added a sculpted geometric element, a mini-roundabout or a willow pergola, just to give your social media captures a more interesting backdrop. But essentially it looks like a nice walk between some nice flowers around three sides of a moat, and I can't see how that's worth the money.

I hope you're getting a sense of how this works now.

Superbloom is not a cheap attraction. It costs £12 to go round plus an optional 10% donation they preload unless you take it off. That's for a walk they reckon will take you 30 minutes, i.e. 40p a minute, except from what I saw I reckon you'd get round quicker. They've also added a gift shop at the end where they hope you'll fork out £18 on a bag, £13 on a tea towel, £6 on some seed mix or £25 on a water bottle. And there's no end of takers. Many of the moatwalking sessions are fully booked, seemingly by people flooding in from the provinces who've done Chelsea and fancied another horticultural treat. Daily Mail readers got 20% off by prebooking with a voucher code and by the looks of things many took up the offer.

You may also have noticed by now that I didn't actually go round the Superbloom walk myself. That's because this is a report on a Thing Not To Do, so obviously I didn't do it.

The biggest drawback to a paid-for floral display in a moat is that it's quite easy to see from above and anyone can do that for nothing. I found numerous perfectly good vantage points along the approach road to Tower Bridge, as could you, not to mention the lower walkway near the tube station. Indeed I reckon I had a much better overview of Superbloom than the people who'd paid good money to be in the midst of the flowers, not that they'd have realised when they prebooked their tickets.

Admittedly my camera only picked up the individual flowers as a pastel blur which wasn't proper selfie material. Also I never saw the inflatable slide they've included as an optional experience near the start of the walkway, and maybe that's fantastic and justifies the price of admission all by itself. But having seen what I've seen I won't be buying a ticket and I can't recommend you do either.

So here's the main drawback with this feature. I'm attempting to review a thing I didn't do, hence basing my review solely on what I saw from a distance which isn't how someone who did the thing would have experienced it.

Also I'm advising you not to do something purely on the basis that I wouldn't have enjoyed it, whereas perhaps it'd be completely up your street and my subjective viewpoint is thus entirely worthless. It's a bit like me urging you not to go to a cricket match or dine out at a Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant based solely on my own personal prejudice.

Superbloom is designed to evolve over the summer and to peak later in the season, so might be more impressive if you go next month. But at a time of tightened budgets and surging prices I'd say it's a gimmick you can miss, ablaze with blooms but definitely not super.

In my considered opinion this supposed Thing To Do is very much a Thing Not To Do. But if you want to spend your money wandering through a meadow in a moat then that's entirely your prerogative.

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