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London Gets World's Biggest Urban Meadow

By Rhett Butler | March 14, 2013

News from The Independent speaks of London giving back to the environment, and to her people. In the shadow of the Olympic stadium where Usain Bolt and other athletes thrilled the world last Summer, a swatch of concrete that consumes 55 acres will be a meadow soon.

The start of the new park - courtesy The University of Sheffield

The start of the new park - courtesy The University of Sheffield

The largest urban park inside London in over 100 years is being developed right next to the Westfield Stratford shopping centre. Inspired by Londoners and Olympic attendees warming to the meadow theme at London 2012, landscape project sponsor Phil Askew and the man responsible for The New York High Line, James Corner, are among a team intent on not only transforming this space, but many others around the UK.

The move builds on the wonderful work of Nigel Dunnett and Sarah Price who created the meadow theme for the games. But more significantly than the names, the ecological impact of a meadow in this urban landscape is what is inspiring. A meadow like that being described puts back a bit of what is lost in cities like London. Slated to be the world's largest sown perennial meadow, what starts as 50 acres will later become 100 hectares of flowers, grass, and some 4,000 trees and 127,000 shrubs - a 24 hour-a-day paradise that will attract the birds and the coveted bees back to London. And therein lies the best part of the story. Bees are dying out everywhere, and the planners of this meadow have specifically taken their plight into consideration.

The Olympic park now - courtesy The University of Sheffield

The Olympic park now - courtesy The University of Sheffield

While the soil in this part of London is just not suited to growing much, it is perfect for wildflowers. These bits of nature's paintbrush attract bees like no other plants. And then there are those dainty cousins of bees, the butterflies. Insecticides and massive development have nearly wiped those colorful friends off the Earth too. Now East of London will be a Springtime and Summer home for not only fascinating insect inhabitants, but children, cyclists, retired people wanting some sunshine, lovers, young athletes, and the weary of the city out for some solace.

As a matter of fact large segments of this wonderful park already exist out of the development and landscaping for the Games of 2012. The land surrounding those Olympic venues was transformed from degraded land into a biodiverse park that would "wow" the world as it arrived at London to see the Olympics. If you go here you'll find a developmental and lecture series by the University of Sheffield, Department of Landscape that tells a lot more of this fascinating development.

Those Brits, like other species they do a lot that's wrong in the world, but then they sure do shine at other things. What a nice story.


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