On Saturday 17th September I took a walk around the Urban Forest Project in Bankside, London. It was one of the walks included in the annual London Open House event which is held over one weekend in September. The event is an opportunity to visit houses and venues that would not otherwise ordinarily be open to the public and also includes walking tours such as this one.
Valerie Beirne the Bankside Urban Forest Manager conducted the tour which ran for about one and a half hours. We met at Bankside Community Space which is located in south London in the borough of Southwark.
I love the whole ethos of Bankside Urban Forest. It was launched in 2007 and, “…is about making Bankside a better place to live, work and visit.” Our first stop was Sumner Street which is behind the Tate Modern Gallery and has been pedestrianised to provide step free access and encourage footfall from the Thames Path and Tate Modern Gallery to this area of shops and restaurants as a way of encouraging economic development.
Just across the main Southwark Bridge road is Great Suffolk Street and offthis is a space where you can take a moment to pause and reflect. This is a pedestrian area with seats and trees and is fronted by the Living Bankside sign which is spelt out with each letter full of plants.
At the end of this section on the side of the Hilton Hotel is a section of Living wall which is a great example of urban greening and takes water harvested from the roof.
The next stop was Ewer Street where there are rain gardens installed to lessen run off on the pavements and then on to Wardens Grove where they have converted parking spaces into planters!
Finally we went to Flat Iron Square where there was a cafe with a tree through the middle of it and hanging baskets that were planted with edible food. These are regularly harvested and given to those in need in the local area.
It was a great walk and demonstrated how many small project can link together in an area to create the sense of a linked urban forest. Amidst all the rush that is London here were spaces, places and creations where you can pause and connect with the living world around you. The project is ongoing and there are amny other examples that there was not time to cover in the walk in and around Southwark.
Top tip: next time you visit London think about coming for Open House weekend and see a side of London that you would not normally be able to glimpse.