Echoes of Forgotten Gardens – Or Nature’s Reclamation Yard?

Something I love about the Peninsula as it stands is the fallow land waiting to be developed. Where once was marsh, then was life and industry, now is a tapestry of brown and green, with flashes of pinks and yellows as the grasses and sedges cover the soil, dappled from time to time with the odd iris or mallow flower.

All this will go soon, the backdrop of the aggregates yard carefully hidden behind, I presume, the ‘affordable’-end of the sundry housing schemes, but for now it’s a little breath of countryside behind the chainlink Fence Of Doom, guarded by men in dayglo vests and the odd scary dog.

Dotted around, though, flourishing in the poor soil, defiantly waving cream, fluffy heads above tattered newspapers and discarded plastic cups, clumps of what looks remarkably like Pampas Grass still stand as proud as though it were 1976.

A native of the South American Plains and suburban gardens of the 1970s, pampas grass (Cortaderia Selloana if you’re being picky) is tough as old boots, which is probably why it survives where no no other domestic plant does. Because it’s so inextricably linked with the Margot Leadbetter end of the 70s, it’s generally thought a bit naff these days, but somehow it manages to look not just elegant, but even native on that Peninsula.

Is it what’s left of the various ‘dirty’ businesses that once inhabited the area? Perhaps long-lost handkerchiefs of green outside the boss’s office of some dead factory – once manicured to high heaven; now left to take off its corsets and spread out. The entire ex-contents of some relocated worker’s front garden? To be honest it’s so long ago now, I can’t quite remember what was where any more.

Of course the other explanation for the sudden clumps of giant sedges is less fanciful, but no less romantic. That this is Nature reclaiming what’s hers and seeding once-contaminated land with her own native species; thumbing a disdainful nose at Progress.

Just outside the entrance to the Eco Park, right in among the carefully-planted, tastefully-planned landscape, one of these plants lurks, triffid-like, hoping no one will notice it. I don’t know whether it was allowed to stay there, whether it seeded itself or just whether no one else actually ever marked it, but every time I catch sight of it, I rejoice that a little bit of unconventionality still festers just below ground level…

Let’s hope that nothing else under the ground there ever surfaces…

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