Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Is England just a bad road movie?

Correspondence following a comment on

Felicity Waters blog - Gardenbeet

Noel - thanks for the comments on my blog. I once cornered one of the senior managers at the roads authority in the UK and gave him an earful - I am from Australia and worked at the road authority for 5 years - we were doing amazing projects - the UK is 50 years behind. And we always worked with Horticultural experts - sometimes from Burnley Horticultural Colleges (Peter May et al)
Amway not meaning to sound egotistically its just that I find the road system is THE LANDSCAPE for so many people these days. It deserves as much consideration as any outdoor area. The UK roads authority has not got a clue about its design responsibility - the UK roads systems is the definition of bad design- its non design- its not even thought about - you get a catalogue of plant mixes and stamp them over the country! These guys need to visit France.

Felicity Waters

Hi Felicity

Thanks for your thoughts – I agree with you that British highway landscaping is crap. In fact an awful lot of British landscaping is crap. My own bugbear has been the massive decline in the quality of planting of our parks and urban green spaces – a group of us did some campaigning about this a few years ago but did not go very far. I was lucky though and managed to do some good projects in Bristol (see my website). And there is one enlightened landscape company (HTA of London) who occasionally employ me as a horticultural consultant.

You are very right about roads being THE landscape for many people. But in fact we are not used to thinking of them as being potentially interesting landscapes – your mention of France is hopeful, I have not been there for years, but will be going this summer so I look forward to some inspiration. One problem we have in the UK is that currently there is some real dogmatic thinking about native planting which an ecology lobby has ended up foisting onto the landscape profession via local govt. and planning requirements. Our native flora is very limited and pretty boring – for landscape purposes anyway. There are a few places I can think of where unplanned nature has done some fantastic things – but very dependent on chance comings-together of low-nutrient soils and the local flora:
April – cowslips along the M5 between Bristol and Gloucester
June – pyramidal orchids ditto
April – early purple orchids and primroses along A38 west of Totnes in Devon
All are great at 70mph!

Do you know Rick Darke – Pennsylvania-based plant-orientated whizz-kid? He has been researching native plantings for highways in Delaware? He has even written a manual on the subject which is really good hardworking stuff. You must see it.

How do you feel about me putting this correspondence on my blog?




Bay Area Tendrils said...

Interesting to nip into your dialogue. I wasn't aware of Rick Darke's new manual. We take the back roads whenever possible here in Northern California, and it's stirring to do so in a county where development has been curtailed. It's certainly not the norm in the U.S.!
When I return to Chicago, I find Mayor Daley's efforts an improvement, and ongoing.
Stopping by to wish you a happy, healthy 2010, Noel,
All best,

Juddie said...

Hi Noel and Felicity,
I think it's really important to have these conversations too. I'm a former Burnley student teaching at Melbourne Uni. In our subjects we examine and explore opportunities for reconnecting with 'the Landscape' - reconsidering definitions and implications of concepts such as nature, wilderness, environments, design, and other values influencing the way we shape our environments and the way they shape us. The debate about strict adherence to native plantings is very relevant here too, especially as our drought conditions worsen and many people adopt an 'anti-exotic' sentiment.

I'm looking forward to reading more of your thoughts ....