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In Praise of our Parks : Part Five


By david


Last August, I wrote a four-part series of blogs on the history of municipal parks, put together from a great many pages of paper notes I had accumulated. With young children, I am very often thankful for these public open spaces, which get us out beyond the garden gate, and allow us all some physical (and mental) recreation.

In one of those blogs, I mentioned Birkenhead Park, Birkenhead, The Wirral, Merseyside, England, which was the world’s first publicly-funded municipal park, and which impressed Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 – 1903) so much that he recreated many of its features in his design of New York’s Central Park (opened 1859).

En route to Spritzhenry’s recent open garden day, I made a detour to visit this famous park, and was well-impressed by this historical space, which retains some of its original features.

The Roman Boathouse

The Swiss Bridge

A major element in the design of Birkenhead Park was the man-made natural look, using rocks, trees and meandering paths/ waterways – a throw-back to the 18th-century landscaped gardens created by the likes of “Capability” Brown.

Meandering paths leading the visitor through “sinister” woodland……..

……….and between giant rocks…….

….before opening out into a view of a meandering, serpentine river.

I was very pleased to see many areas given over to wildflower meadow-style planting……

It was, for me, great to be able to visit this historic park for real. :-)

More blog posts by david

Previous post: In an English Country Garden.

Next post: Drying Alliums



Looks a great place to visit, David. Very interesting blog and photos. I haven't seen your earlier ones (I only joined in September) but will go and have a look. Thanks for this.

27 Jun, 2009


Just read through your earlier 4 blogs, very interesting. I was particularly interested in the reference to Tower Hamlets as my family originally came from that area (I an researching family tree). Will have another look when I am more awake. Bedtime for me now as it is nearly 2.30!!

27 Jun, 2009


Good morning :o)
This is a lovely blog, David.
Good photos.... and gr8 paragraphs. Lol.
I love all the rocks, and good to see the wild flower areas.

27 Jun, 2009


~great blog~loved the Roman boathouse and Swiss Bridge!

27 Jun, 2009


wow , fantastic looking park David.
thanks for letting us know about it

27 Jun, 2009


Hmmm Birkenhead is not far up the M62 from Manchester, that is now in my diary to visit thanks David.

27 Jun, 2009


Great blog enjoyed it very much David.

27 Jun, 2009


I likewise enjoyed reading your blog, David! It takes such hard work to make a "natural" feel to a garden, copying what nature does is very hard work!

I'd love to visit that park someday! It'll have to go on the list of "Things to do before you reach 100!" Lol :)

27 Jun, 2009


Great blog David...particularly impressed with the meadow planting.

27 Jun, 2009


So happy that you found a connection, Gee! And, I hope you had a good sleep. :-)

Deja vus, Tt! LOL! Doesn't seem like almost a year ago when you "reprimanded" me on my use of paragraphs and pics! :-) Do you know, each rock is 6' tall, at least?

Bobg - You're welcome, but, apart from the pics here, nothing much obvious remains of the original park, as designed. Except for the huge monumental stone archway, which was the original entrance. I couldn't get a decent pic because I had to take some across a very busy main road. Doesn't look right with heavy traffic in the foreground, lol! Imagine, I got all the way from Fife to Birkenhead without needing a map, then had to stop at a Sainsbury store to ask for directions to the park. (not well signed). At the customer service desk, a lovely lady called Ann drew me a street plan on a scrap piece of paper :-)

Balcony - my list is currently at about 1,000,000 - lol! Your words are so true, though. I believe that the creation of a wilderness/natural look is actually very hard work!

Yes, I agree, to see deliberate wildflower planting areas in a city park was just gr8! :-)

Many Thanks for all comments and likes. Haven't been in Central Park for 22 years. Now, if I could afford it, I'd be off on a trip there, lol! (stuff the stores and tourist traps!)

BBC's "Gardeners' World" made a special episode dedicated to parks, which is occasionally aired on Satellite/cable TV. I caught it once. Presented by Joe Swift, it took in Birkenhead and Central Park, and also showed the movements/groups in place to restore and promote these valuable places, with regeneration and restoration work - admirable! :-)

As for the murky brown water - reminds me of a milk chocolate river! :-)

28 Jun, 2009


Beautiful Park and photographs David, a lovely place to visit and wander around in

30 Jun, 2009

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