At last it’s open. Yet another secret garden of Greenwich is revealed. I took these photos just a couple of weeks ago on the first official day of opening for what we must now call The Queen’s Orchard (formerly the Dwarf Orchard, which was, frankly comical) in the north-east corner of Greenwich Park, but anyone would have thought I took them a couple of months ago, so fit-to-burst were all the trees and flowers – this was probably the first day of ‘nice’ and since then it’s all gone mad, even if the weather’s still a bit iffy.
We’ve been watching – or rather not watching this project for years now. The tiny, secret sliver of land that even people who knew it was there forgot it was there. High walls, dense greenery and a quiet part of the park, lurking behind the kiddies’ playground, meant that we were intrigued, but left almost completely in the dark, save for a few grainy pics sent to me by kindly phantophiles living in Park Vista…
What we’re seeing here is the bare bones of what will be a stunning garden. Still pleasingly wild in parts, it’s like seeing a beautiful princess in her knickers, just before she puts on the gown to be the belle of the ball. Volunteers and park gardeners have cleared the ghastly sycamore weed-trees and thick undergrowth to reveal what was left of the little formal garden.
Sadly that’s very little – any landscaping is pretty much long-gone, though there is a fabulous (and very elderly) mulberry tree which, come to think of it, I didn’t see when I went a couple of weeks ago. I can’t believe it’s not there; I must have been too busy looking at everything else.
They have done a lovely job with the old well that was unearthed. Personally I preferred the first wrought iron well cover that artist Heather Burrell came up with but this one is very fine indeed and when it mellows in and stops looking quite so ‘new’ it’s going to be lovely.
In fact you could say that about pretty much all of the new park – it’s just very ‘new.’ The delightful rounded pond with its high, brick raised beds, the pristine ogee-shaped arches, still naked, the fabulous wooden railway-sleeper style raised veg beds – it all looks a bit clean and fresh – which is hardly a surprise given that it is.
Ditto the lovely wild bit with the re-planted dwarf fruit trees that gave the orchard its former name – they’re young, cute, local and with ancient ancestry but a bit on the stark side. Give it all a couple of years though and this is going to be one of my favourite corners of the park. In the meanwhile it’s a delight to be able to watch it develop.
The park is currently open between 1.00pm and 3.00pm on Sundays – though I found that to be a generous estimate – no one seemed to be in a hurry to chuck anyone out. The gardener I talked with told me that they’re planning to stretch the opening hours gradually throughout the coming months.
I need to go back now there are actual leaves on actual trees.