27 February 2010

a lambeth walk


I  think I may have fallen in love with Lambeth.  My recent jam-related visits to the Imperial War Museum helped me to appreciate more the vantage point that Lambeth North has, nestled within a giant meander, with seven Thames bridges within walking distance.  One day I walked home via Borough High Street, London Bridge and the streets around Samuel Pepys old home.  Another freezing cold day I crossed Waterloo Bridge to get up to the Strand and back home from Temple, red faced from the biting wind.

Last weekend, Lambeth lured me back, this time to the Museum of Garden History to see the Good Life exhibition.  The route to the museum is infused with rural promise - first underneath the fern laden arches of Upper Marsh with their sooty encrustations, elegant brickwork and rusticated stonework; then through Archbishop's Park, hemmed in by Lambeth Palace, where a single witch hazel scented the wintry beds.  Finally you walk along the wall lined road to the redundant church of St Mary at Lambeth that houses the modest little museum and the tomb of plantsmen John Tradescant and his son.


This museum does not do grand.  The Good Life exhibition we went to see was quite small and was a rallying call forself sufficiency, allotments and growing your own vegetables.  To our surprise, there on the wall was a quote from John from his days on the committee of Manor Gardens, a picture of him carrying a blazing torch and a plan of my old plot done by the woman who took it over from me.  Lesson number one of plot holding:  be gracious and do not get piqued when someone inherits your lovely patchwork bed design, asparagus, raspberries, euphorbia, yuccas, fig and apple trees and gets the benefit of your years of investment.  Like Capability Brown, you garden for posterity, even if posterity is short lived.

Upstairs in the permanent display space were some pretty paintings, a desirable collection of old garden tools and some curious gardening ephemera - ancient gardening boots, seed packets, Britains farm and garden models.  I was impressed by this riveted earthenware flowerpot, the fact that it was valuable enough to someone to bother mending it...


... while around the same time someone could afford to have pony boots made to protect the lawns when they were cut by horse drawn machinery.   Somehow the boots bring to mind images of ponies dancing on the lawn at garden parties.  If only.


Outside in the walled garden, above the rumble of the traffic, Big Ben struck the hour, a blackbird was singing, and it didn't matter in the least that it was going to rain on the journey home.

Mr Tradescant's stonemason with his hellish visions was clearly no gardener.

(If you haven't got your act together yet, there is a seed and potato fair at the museum this Sunday.)

7 comments:

Val said...

How lovely a walk in Lambeth and all while sitting by a woodstove that is sending out waves of warmth!
We just had a foot of fresh snow and it's beautiful out but I have a cold and cough so a virtual visit was great fun! Thank you

Anonymous said...

Haven't been to the Garden History Museum but made the trip one year to see the Lambeth Palace gardens when they were open to the public (London Squares weekend I think). One of my neighbours volunteers in the garden so I knew to expect a very beautiful mulberry tree. No cake on offer at the open day though which challenged all those stereotypes I hold in my head about the Church of England!

South of the river I really enjoy going to the Fashion and Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street (run by Newham College). Unfortunately the Tuffin and Foale exhibit is now over but there is a new one on Sandersons starting on March 19th. Whenever I go there (worth the trip to see a well stitched hem I feel) there is a real mix of people - fashion students, older women remembering wearing the clothes. And it is a good walk from Liverpool Street.

Joan

colleen said...

Val - I'm sure that sitting by the woodstove will do your cough and cold the world of good.

Joan - can only agree that a well stitched hem is very much worth the effort! A cycle trip from Mile End may be in order for the next exhibition...

shandy said...

How spring-like your pictures seem! We made a start on our allotment some weeks ago, but now flood waters are rising to make it soggy.

knit nurse said...

The cafe there does lovely food too!

colleen said...

While I was out today I suddenly realised why I thought of dancing ponies. It's because those boots are so much like the hooves of pantomime horses, an dwe all know that they are very good at dancing, don't we.

lara said...

After reading your lovely post, I went to the seed sale - had some lovely cake and came a way with some rather fine seed potatoes and a rather handsome rhubarb crown! Thanks for reminding me of it!