Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Streak Day 241 (Tuesday Aug 30th): Water Gardens

2011 Streak Day 241 (Tuesday Aug 30th): Walk - 3 miles, Time 1hr 10min, Weather - greyish once more
When I started this 2011 project one of the objectives was to talk about exercise and training, as normal, another was to notice things I found visually interesting and take photographs, but the third strand was pay attention to my home region, especially Hemel Hempstead where I live.
What particularly interests me is the differences between the ideals and hopes invested in the New Town project immediately post-war and the way they are now. I am tremendously attracted to the early idealism but am equally aware that some things have not turned out as planned.
Today’s photo is a good example and it is a disgrace.
You would not guess from the overgrown planting, eroded banks, grass destroyed by too many canada geese, and eroding concrete, that this is a listed in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Particular Historic Interested (in other words it is Grade II listed). 
It was designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe (a eminent landscape architect of the Twentieth Century who was also responsible for the gardens of the JFK Memorial at Runnymead) and planted by his wife Susan, both of whom thought it one of their most successful projects. Interestingly Jellicoe was interested in the way the unconscious influenced all design and in this project admitted being influenced by Paul Klee.
Today you would be hard put to identify the artistic ideals. What should be a pleasant civic space has been neglected over the years and is now a just a scruffy area with water (kids can still feed the ducks so that is OK).
It is an example of how anything can degrade without care and attention. Everything has to be maintained or it starts to fall apart. Changes may be gradual at first, barely noticeable, but eventually they reach a point where you  realise things have become so bad major reconstruction is needed.
It looks like we are now at that point. The Garden History Society had a study day in Hemel on the Water Gardens, a Friends Group is being formed to work with the council to prepare a bid for lottery funding and the council itself is talking of improving the area. But “actively pursued when the cash is available” probably means we should not expect immediate action.

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