A garden out of the ashes…

Our last day in London was cold and windy–I packed my umbrella around but we never had any rain to speak of. There were a few more sights on Dave’s list so we headed out for the Westminster Borough to marvel at the Parliament buildings, Big Ben, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square. My guy has a thing for big bronze lions so the Square was a must see!

The last garden visit on this trip will be more of a history lesson than a feast of huge trees, billowing shrubs and masses of flowers. We decided to walk back to our hotel from the St. Paul’s Cathedral area, took a wrong turn–as I had left our best map in the room–and came upon the Noble Street Gardens. Noble Street is only one long block nestled between two tall buildings and closed to car traffic. There are two very different green space experiences in the that single block. The first is the Noble Street Walkway.

NOBLE STREET WALKWAY

Over 1,000 Roman soldiers, housed in a stone fort built in 110 AD, worked for the provincial governor of London. Ninety years later, Roman construction workers began to build the first City Wall using more than one million blocks of ragstone shipped from Kent in over 1,750 boatloads. This massive defensive stone wall stretched almost 3 miles from Blackfriars in the west to where the Tower of London now stands in the east.

By the 14th century, the City Wall had been strengthened by towers to the west adding to the Late Roman towers to the east. The Roman City Wall set the shape of the city of London for the next 1600 years. Throughout those centuries workers continued to maintain it, using various building techniques. The parish churches, religious houses and street layout were firmly established throughout the Medieval and Tudor periods and–although London grew beyond the City Wall it remained a defensive barrier.

Fast forward several hundred years–when German bombing raids in 1940 destroyed the area, the City Wall was revealed once again. For more than 20 years the area remained undeveloped allowing archaeologists to identify the site of the Roman Fort for the first time. A new road, London Wall Road, was constructed in 1956 as the city emerged from the ruins. New developments have been designed to enhance the area’s historic core.

The Noble Street Walkway was created to allow the City Wall remains to be seen by the public. Descriptive plaques (from which the above story was taken) tell the tale of the remains. The area was intentionally landscaped and is maintained in a manner to not detract from the ruins. A gentleman I met on the walkway works in the adjacent building and told me that the area is heavily planted with naturalizing bulbs and is stunning in the early spring. Right now it has only a green carpet with some vines climbing the ruins but is an amazing sight–knowing you are looking at Roman ruins  and a city that rose from the ashes of WWII.

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City Wall ruins spring to life!
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View of the northern end

THE GARDEN OF ST. ANNE AND ST. AGNES CHURCH

This garden welcomes you as you step off the Noble Street Walkway. The garden is laid out on the remains of the Medieval church’s graveyard. The church itself was restored by Sir Christopher Wren after it was damaged in the 1666 Great Fire of London. The modern design aims to provide the attractive red brick church with a pleasant and welcoming setting. As with every church garden I visited many folks rested and lunched on the benches. These green spaces throughout the city are welcome respite from concrete and stone.

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A restful gray, green and white palette prevails

Evergreen shrubs rule at St. Anne and St. Agnes Church garden. I identified viburnum, piers, mahonia, hebe, boxwood, aralia and many more. There are only two higher maintenance beds like the one above. All together this short block in the middle of the bustling financial district had a lot of offer.

My time in this wonderful city has come to an end. I’ll wrap up in the next fews days–after we are settled back at home. I think I’ll call it “Around Londontown…” and will post the best photos of  doorway gardens and windowbox  from the neighborhoods I walked. Until then…

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