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.)