Grosvenor Estate’s Parklet Creates a Buzz

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The idea of converting  city street areas into mini-public parks begun in San Francisco is now being emulated around the world.  Helen Gazeley investigates the first parklet development on The Grosvenor Estate.

The first parklet on a street corner in Belgravia has been launched by The Grosvenor Estate. The purpose of this tiny, temporary, pocket-garden oasis, the size of three parking spaces, is to bring residents, shop owners and visitors together and, in an area where public seating is scarce, offer a resting-place for passers-by and somewhere for local employees to take a break.

The installation is not just about people however, it’s also about bees. The Grosvenor Estate, which owns three hundred acres of the surrounding area, aims to support plans for more sustainable cities and its ‘Creating a Buzz’ initiative  focuses on setting up an urban eco-system for bees as well as pocket parks for the community.

Hannah Forkan, team leader of Creating a Buzz px“Creating a Buzz is one of the many community projects that kicked off about a year ago,” said team leader, Hannah Forkan at the opening last week. “This work includes the bees on the estate. We have one hive on top of 50, Grosvenor Hill, two on top of St Michael’s House, Elizabeth Street, and one at Headquarters at 70, Grosvenor Street.”

Roof top gardens are being established to support the bees as well as street level planting and it is hoped that enjoying and  looking after the plant installations will  draw the community together. “We have hanging baskets in Mount Street and window-boxes on Buckingham Palace Road,” explained Hannah. “The parklet is the last element.”

The new parklet  will have Tom Ashton, owner of Tomtom Coffee House, on the corner of Ebury Street and Elizabeth Street, as its chief guardian and host. He is taking on the roles of chief waterer, monitor of how much the parklet is used and loved, and organiser of the community rota to look after it.

“I’m a terrible gardener,” he said, adding that his own garden is easy maintenance. “I put plants in and they live or die.” Glancing down at the raised beds, he said, “Hopefully I won’t kill these.”

TOMtom

Grosvenor’s expert gardeners will be on hand to advise, though, and it seems that Tom is a gardener in the making, as he’s already volunteered to save all his coffee grounds for the estate’s compost heaps.

His job will be made easier given the nature of the planting. Strongly architectural plants—Fatsia japonica, bamboo, Phormium and Trachycarpus fortunei—dominate, with flowers surprisingly limited to blocks of blue Salvia nemorosa “Ostfriesland” and small fuchsias.

The planting was the subject of much discussion at the planning stage. Nick Butler, lead gardener of a team of ten—who was partly responsible for the arrival of the bees, having discovered a hitherto unsuspected interest in beekeeping when he attended a course two years ago—had to take several things into consideration.

Garden

“We wanted an evergreen look, in case it stays here longer than expected,” he said, adding, “We didn’t want to completely fill it with bee-friendly plants, or people wouldn’t want to sit here.”

There is however a block of rudbeckias, to provide flowers later in the season chosen for their yellow tones—“Bees love blue and yellow.”.  Sunk in pots they can be easily removed and replaced after flowering.

The parklet was inspired by the Pavement to Parks movement that took San Francisco by storm in 2010 and 2011, when parking spaces were transformed, pavements widened and plazas created, merely with planters and seating. They created a calmer environment, and a survey found that people were more inclined to visit areas where there were places to sit.

Belgravia’s parklet will be deemed a success if it becomes a popular resting place (there are currently no plans to check its success with bees). Reactions so far have been good. “There is a community feeling here,” said Nick. “A lot of shop owners know each other quite well. The parklet arrived on pallets and it took us twelve hours to put together. We had a lot of positive comments when people saw us planting up this big empty space.”

This trial run is funded by the Grosvenor Estate, but if it proves a success, the hope is to find sponsors to support a number of parklets to green the surrounding area.

Links:

Tomtom Coffee House: www.tomtom.co.uk

Pavement to Parks Movement http://pavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/

2 Responses to “Grosvenor Estate’s Parklet Creates a Buzz”

  1. janet escott

    Last Monday I came out of a packed Victoria coach station looking for somewhere to sit outside as I had 2 hours before my next coach departed. I cannot walk far and I could hardly believe my eyes when I came across your parklet in Ebury Street. The flowers were simply wonderful and cared for so well. There were about 7 people there at the time. It made my journey so much nicer. Thanks. Janet.

  2. Kenny Ingram

    The Parklet pictured on the junction of Ebury st. & Elizabeth st., is used on a daily basis by Eastern Europeans as a drinking den and rubbish tip.
    The also use the crevice next to the banks door as a toilet, which runs across the pavement into the road.
    The Police seem to ignore the no drinking in public policy.

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