The beauty of parks

There is a lovely essay on Parks in the Guardian today. I say Parks rather than parks as the author takes a very strict line on what is or isn’t a Park, proposing five criteria that must e met in order to qualify (large trees, random planting, undulations, scale, and a gate or portal). William Boyd, the essay’s author, was one of eight writers commissioned by London’s Royal Parks to write a story set in a London Royal Park; one writer for each of the 8 parks.
In his Guardian piece Boyd ranges widely, discussing fiction set in parks, Orson Welles, plane tree, Rio de Janeiro, Queen Victoria, pyschogeography, cemeteries, zoos, Wittgenstein, and sex, though not all at once. Is what he says about plane trees correct? He says that the London plane tree is

a hybrid derived from the Platanus orientalis and the Platanus occidentalis. This hybrid sheds its bark, a fact that is believed to make it more resistant to the city’s polluting toxins,

A good friend of mine is a great lover of parks – a complete nut about parks in fact. He made me realise that I love them too – a walk (or run) in a beautiful oark can have a wonderfully calming effect. I also like the dissonance you find in city parks between the urban setting and the rural appearance. Walking through St James Park in London, Central Park in New York, or Lumpini Park in Bangkok you can see the city around you but it is not touching you.
If you love parks read Boyd’s essay. I think I may need to look the 8 stories too in due course.
P.S.
Forgot to say. Boyd also discusses the distinction between town and country writers. This made me wonder if there is a similar split between town and country scientists?
Is the science done at Cold Spring Harbor, Hinxton or Keyworth any different from that done in South Kensington, Toronto or Manchester?

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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2 Responses to The beauty of parks

  1. Kristi Vogel says:

    Wonderful post, Frank! I love parks as well, and I especially loved those in London. Like Boyd, I lived close to Battersea Park, and enjoyed cycling and running there. I think I’ve been to each of the Royal Parks at least once, and have been horse-riding in Richmond Park several times (Ham Polo Club used to lease out polo horses for deer-scattering canters). I walked through St. James’ Park on my last day in the UK this spring, as I had a day in London before my flight back to the US, and the weather was brilliant. I’m not a very cosmopolitan or well-traveled person, but I spend a good deal of time and effort to familiarize myself with the parks in the areas where I’ve lived.
    Regarding the London plane trees, according to Rackham’s Woodlands book, the notion that they survive urban conditions, by periodically shedding the pollutants with their bark, goes back to 19th-century garden writers. Sounds as if an earlier volume in the New Naturalist series (Fitter’s London’s Natural History) has more on the subject.

  2. Frank Norman says:

    Thanks, Kristi. Interesting to learn about the plane trees. I had assumed that the bark loss was a symptom of disease rather than a defence against pollutants.
    The lovely weather yesterday inspired to take a walk in a park yesterday – see photo here.