Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Unique London Village

Open Garden Squares Weekend is all about opening up London’s private, secret gardens and Garden Barge Square, near Tower Bridge, is a wonderfully quirky and imaginative living space. The barge development feels thoroughly contemporary, yet there have been moorings on this site for over 200 years.
The secluded setting of Garden Barge Square, in the shadow of Tower Bridge and the London skyline
We were lucky to be shown around on a beautiful bright and warm November morning by Nick Lacey. Nick devised the gardens in the mid-1990s and his architectural practice is based in a nearby wharf building overlooking the Square.  This village of converted barge vessels, linked by bridges and walkways, is home for nearly 100 people, and also houses businesses and artists’ studios.

Low lying, hardy silver-leafed plants
are a particular feature of the gardens
And, between and atop the barges there are individually planted gardens, each with its own identity. They were still incredibly green, and featured a variety of evergreen and silver-leafed plants – ideally suited to the dry and windy conditions on the Thames - bordered by box hedges and swaying grasses. Mains water keeps the gardens looking spruce, but in times of shortage the Thames itself – barely saline on this stretch - can be used. The gardens are managed organically to attract wildlife interest and are fed with home made fertilisers. There is a zero toleration policy for invasive weeds and chemicals.

We were also delighted to see rarely-cultivated medlar trees with their petite proportions working so well in the available space. Nick shared with us his recipe for medlar jelly, a lovely bronze-coloured preserve which is super with cold roast meat. Both bletted (dark brown in appearance and squashy to the touch) and firm medlars are required for the jelly, the majority should be bletted combined with a few that are still firm. 

An unbletted medlar
Medlar Jelly

Simmer the medlars in a small quantity of water, sufficient just to stop the fruits from sticking. Strain the cooked fruit through muslin and gently boil the resultant juice with an equal amount of sugar. The jelly is ready when a small quantity sets on a cold plate. Bottle the jelly in clean jars and seal once cooled.

We’ll be back in a month’s time with another exciting and unique London garden!