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Mike Jones and Winter Walk by Paul Shelley

Mike Jones and Winter Walk by Paul Shelley

Our accredited photographer, Paul Shelley, usually specialises in gritty street and work situations with well worn faces looking resignedly into the lens. Industrial archaeology also features a lot in his portfolio.

However we are lucky that from time to time he changes the pace and visits our two parks for some spirit lifting photography.

On this occasion he told us he was feeling melancholy and looking at things from a different perspective. It’s an interesting point of view in the middle of winter.

Sue Price

Taking a winter walk through Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens on a murky Saturday in January I found myself thinking about the wonderful natural artworks on display. Taking my camera I soon realised that the stripped back vegetation was presenting me with magical sculptures, the Serpentine and Long Water being the canvas for these scenes.

Perhaps winter gives a starker depiction of the wonders of the landscape of the parks. With these images I will suggest that you really should get into the parks in the next few weeks and take a good look at the views which will soon be changing with the emergence of spring.

Setting off at the eastern end of the Serpentine I am intrigued by the perspective that the tall grasses make for the roof line of the restaurant across the lake. To my eye the roof of this building was designed to look like the beating wings of a swan taking off and the wintery muted tones of the reed beds emphasise this.

Further along the bank two scenes of the boat houses across the water provide variations on a theme reminding me of Monet’s Rouen cathedral series. The catkins on the willows and the red stems of the cornus dogwood frame the pair of handsome little buildings in the distance. Is this intentional I wonder? Or perhaps a happy coincidence of nature and the skill of the parks’ teams

At the lido a line of birds are diligently obeying the No Diving sign as they sit neatly together on a rail. Like a section of a mobile hanging from a ceiling, perhaps they are waiting for someone to remove the notice so that they can go fishing.

Passing beneath the Serpentine bridge a solitary heron sets a prehistoric profile against the water. Tall and thin like a Giacometti on a slender stand. The big bird gazes impassively as two mallards squabble and stir up the water into an abstract pattern.
Gazing across the lake I see a fallen tree covered with roosting gulls. The birds are oblivious to the lacy pattern that they make perching among the lattice of bare branches hanging over the bank. What a great idea to have left the tree rather than tidy it up and thus remove a contrast to the line standing upright behind it.

Walking around the end of the Italian Gardens I pause to take in the scene of contented weekenders sitting chatting by the fountains. Heading back eastwards I am treated to a surprise show by the air ambulance taking off. With a roar and a blast of bending grasses the helicopter climbs up into the failing evening light against the trees on Buck Hill.

Crossing the lakes by the Serpentine bridge people are watching the colours change in the sky as they look towards Whitehall. The winking lights on the London eye appear through the haze. The evergreen planting near the bridge, combined with the leafless deciduous trees make another organic frame to a long view towards the Albert memorial. I walk by the netting of the tennis courts. The floodlights offer a different perspective and I enjoy the patterns of the thistle heads beside the West Carriage Drive. In summer these would be in full flower whereas in January their shapes are stripped back and sharp.

It is now starting to drizzle and I head back towards Hyde Park Corner. My last view is from where I started my circuit. By now it was dusk and the lights across the lake combined with one of the beautiful gas lamps make the last artistic composition in these wonderful parks. I glimpse some snowdrops before I descend into the tube.

Paul Shelley
Accredited Photographer
Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Soak up a Snowdrop Experience*

At this time of year, I make sure I head for the grassy banks to the east of the Albert memorial. The snowdrops have been spreading successfully each year and obviously love it here even without being fenced off. So, if you want to enjoy their profusion, this is a good time to have a look. I was there on Feb 1st and there was a magnificent sun setting, which cheered everybody up.

Mike Jones
We were very sorry to learn earlier this week that Nursery Manager, Mike Jones, had decided to leave The Royal Parks (TRP) after nearly thirty years of working in the nurseries. Mike worked for Meredith & Co who were contracted by TRP to provide nursery services. The contract came to an end on January 31st. TRP were keen to take the business back in house, and so Mike made the decision to go and left the Parks on Tuesday.

To the members of the Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens he has been a true friend and over many years he must have met hundreds of us and explained and taught us so much about the logistics of growing and delivering the enormous number of plants to all the Royal parks and the famous Buckingham Palace flower beds.

Communicating in a relaxed and friendly way is his skill and he made the art of peat free growing and what recycles and what doesn’t easy to understand. He demonstrated how to control pests by using friendly bugs, flying out of their cardboard boxes and packets, chomping on pests and then resting on their specially grown, hairy leaved aubergine plants.

More recently he suggested holding sales of leftover plants in the summer and autumn. These were immediately very popular with all our members, who chose carefully, listened intently to gardening advice and then carried off amazing selections by no less amazing means of transport. The many local church gardens, community planted spaces as well as our own pots, window boxes and gardens will miss his very classy annuals.

Everything about the nurseries has been a photographer’s dream and longer standing members will know that we have often written about and pictured news from Mike. The media too often beat a path to his door and he came across well on TV and in the press.

In my last email to you all I explained how each Park Manager or horticultural specialist puts in a ‘wish list’ (order). The nurseries are now hard at work growing the thousands of plants needed to fulfil these plans for summer planting.

We will miss Mike’s warm welcome to the Nursery and his patience in answering our endless questions during visits. My main regret is that we didn’t have the chance to thank him and say goodbye properly.

We send him all our warmest best wishes and hopes for his future plans.

Foot note:
Mike’s assistant Malika, who many members will also have met especially at plant sales, left last Friday, his decision was for personal reasons.

A Kensington Gardens Gem

Queen Caroline’s Temple (1734) was badly mistreated during the long Covid lock down in Spring and Summer 2020. Graffiti appeared very regularly and eventually the police suggested she should be fenced off for her own protection. This worked quite well, although some were still determined enough to climb over the hastily erected chestnut palings to party away in her shelter leaving horrible remains.

She was partially hidden by quite heavy undergrowth and so sight lines were not clear. The brambles have now been removed (the police are very pleased) and the building with her classical proportions is open for all to see. I think she looks great.

She is now due for cyclical redecoration and some work to the roof. This will take place soon.

Sue Price
Friends of Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens