Kew Gardens was last month recognised as holding the world’s “largest collection of living plants at a single-site botanic garden” by Guinness World Records. The 320 acre site in west London, which is home to 16,900 species of plants from all over the world, is actually no stranger to Guinness World Records. Its plants include the world’s largest waterlily species – Victoria amazonica (found in the Princess of Wales Conservatory), the world’s smallest water lily species – Nymphaea thermarum (also found in the conservatory) and the plant with the world’s tallest bloom – the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) which also holds the record as the world’s smelliest plant. In 2020, Kew was also home to the world’s longest Nepenthes plant trap which measured 43 centimetres from the base to the lid. For more on Kew, head to www.kew.org.
One Thousand Springs, an artwork by internationally renowned artist Chiharu Shiota, is the centrepiece of the Japan festival taking place at Kew Gardens in west London. The work features 5,000 haikus submitted by members of the public which have been suspended on red threads in the Victorian-era Temperate House. Says Shiota: “The Japanese language was formed by a culture that cherishes the natural world. Many cultural practices like ikebana, bonsai and hanami are based on the contemplation and enjoyment of nature. For One Thousand Springs I chose to focus on the haiku. The traditional haiku mentions one of the seasons and many haikus are based on observations in nature.” The installation can be seen throughout the month-long festival along with horticultural displays including a specially commissioned Chalk Garden, a contemporary response to a Japanese garden showcasing native plants including grasses, shrubs and trees. For more on the festival, including after hours events, see www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/festival-japan.
A selection of entries into this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year have been released ahead of the opening of the annual exhibition at the Natural History Museum in October. Among the images selected from the more than 50,000 entries in the 57th competition is that of Sergio Marijuán’s Lynx on the threshold depicting a young Iberian lynx pausing in the doorway of the abandoned hayloft where it was raised in Sierra Morena in Spain (pictured above), Gil Wizen’s Beautiful bloodsucker depicting a female ornamented mosquito in the process of biting (below), and Laurent Ballesta’s Deep feelers showing a vibrant community of narwhal shrimps in deep waters off the French Mediterranean coast (far below). The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 12th October. The exhibition at the South Kensington museum opens on 15th October at the Natural History Museum. To book tickets for the exhibition, head to www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.html. The 2021 competition opens on 18th October.
Last week saw the annual weigh-in of animals at ZSL London Zoo and all creatures great and small took part – from the Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys (pictured above) to the giant Galapagos tortoises and the tiny midwife toads (both pictured below). With more than 20,000 animals in the care of the zoo, the keepers spend hours through the year recording the heights and weights of all the animals. It’s an important task – the information aids them in monitoring the health and wellbeing of all those in the zoo. “It helps to ensure that every animal we look after is healthy, eating well, and growing at the rate they should – weight is a particularly important indicator of health and wellbeing,” says the zoo’s animal manager Angela Ryan. “A growing waistline can also help us to detect and monitor pregnancies, which is so important as many of the species at ZSL London Zoo are threatened and part of international breeding programmes, including today’s Asiatic lions and big-headed turtles. By sharing information with other zoos and conservationists worldwide, we can all use this knowledge to better care for the species we’re striving to protect.” For more, see www.zsl.org.
The full Changing of the Guard ceremony returned to Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and the Tower of London on Monday after the longest pause in its taking place since World War II. The ceremony, usually a popular tourist drawcard, had been absent from London since March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to the ceremonial duty was carried out by the Number 3 Company from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards based in Windsor, accompanied by the Band of The Coldstream Guards. PICTURES: Sergeant Donald C Todd, RLC (UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021/published under the MOD News Licence).
One of the 27 life-sized lion sculptures placed in central London to raise awareness and funds to support community conservation and livelihoods across Africa impacted by COVID-19. Each of the lions has been decorated by decorated by famous artists, musicians and comedians (this one by rock star Ronnie Wood and named ‘Not Lying Lion’). The Lion Trail, which is also part of the City of Westminster’s ‘Inside Out festival’, is delivered by wildlife conservation charity Tusk and supported by Art of London. The lions can be see until 26th September. For more, see www.tuskliontrail.com/london-pride/
Works by young Londoners depicting their COVID-19 experiences as well as their feelings in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have gone on show in an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery and online. A Westminster City Council project, called Creative Collective, asked young people to produce works in any medium – audio clips, short films, poems, paintings, drawings, statements or digital works – responding to themes including lockdown, resilience and hope, community and Black Lives Matter. The results, which have previously been on display at libraries across Westminster, can now be viewed until 31st August at in the Learning Gallery at the Saatchi Gallery as part of the JR Chronicles Exhibition. The display is also available to see online here. The project is the work of the council’s cultural youth engagement programme – City Lions – in partnership with children’s services, local schools, professional artists, libraries and archives.
A lost ‘garden snug’ has been recreated at 19th century designer William Morris’ Arts & Crafts home, Red House, in Bexleyheath. Inspired by the original notes of architect Philip Webb, the design draws on an ordnance survey map from when Morris and his family were residents at the house between 1860-1865 which shows outdoor spaces separated into different ‘rooms’. Photos of the garden from the 1890s were also used to guide the project. The 100 square metre garden is enclosed with traditional hazel and hawthorn and the planting inside its bounds references some iconic Morris & Co designs like ‘Trellis’, ‘Daisy’ and ‘Fruit’. At the centre is a Tibetan cherry (Prunus serrula) and the garden also features traditional cottage plants like Shasta daisies, columbines, honeysuckle, irises, peonies, jasmine and mock orange. Around the central tree are specially commissioned wooden seats from Scottish craftsman Angus Ross with distinctive two-metre high arches designed to echo the house’s medieval-inspired architecture. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/red-house.
The historic 39 acre garden at Buckingham Palace opened to the public for the first time last Friday as part of the palace’s summer opening. Visitors can follow a route that takes in the 156-metre Herbaceous Border, plane trees which were planted by and named for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and views of the island and its beehives across the 3.5-acre lake. There’s also the opportunity to enjoy a picnic on the lawns and guided tours of the south-west of the garden with features including the Rose Garden, summer house and wildflower meadow. The current landscape dates back to the 1820s when King George IV turned Buckingham House into a place. It features more than 1,000 trees, the National Collection of Mulberry Trees (mulberry trees were first planted by King James I in 1608), 320 different wildflowers and grasses, and, since 2008, five beehives. The Queen traditionally hosts three garden parties in the gardens annually which are each attended by 8,000 guests, who consume around 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake. The gardens are open until 19th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rct.uk.
Queen Elizabeth II has awarded the George Cross – the country’s highest civilian gallantry award – to the National Health Service. In an accompanying statement, the Queen said: “It is with great pleasure, on behalf of a grateful nation, that I award the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom. This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations. Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service. You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation.” Details of when the award will be presented are yet to be announced. It is only the third time, the George Cross has been awarded to a collective body, country or organisation, rather than an individual (the first time was when it was collectively awarded to the people of Malta in 1942 by Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, and the second time when it was awarded to the Royal Ulster Constabulary by the Queen in 1999). PICTURE: Nicolas J Leclercq/Unsplash
PICTURE: Kamran Chaudhry/Unsplash
Marking this year’s Windrush Day, the Museum of London has made two new acquisitions – an ensemble from London fashion designer Tihara Smith’s ‘Windrush collection’ and a suit owned by her grandfather – available to explore on the Museum of London website. Tihara’s outfit, which was designed as part of Smith’s UCA Epsom graduate collection in 2018 and selected for display at Graduate Fashion Week, references the story of her grandfather, Lazare Sylvestre, who arrived in the UK from St Lucia in 1958 as part of the Windrush generation. Details including a raffia vest hand embroidered with the words ‘Black and British’ which is accompanied by a Black Power fist and the red lion symbol of England as well as a shirt made from a tablecloth purchased in Peckham Market and flared 1970s style denim culottes – all of which are representative of her grandfather’s experience and that of so many other Black British Londoners at that time. Her grandfather’s suit, meanwhile, was designed and made for him by a close friend, Winceslas ‘Winston’ Giscombe, a tailor who originally from Kingston, Jamaica, who came to the UK in 1947 on a ship called the Ormonde, a year before the Windrush arrived in 1948. Photographs of the items, along with oral histories recorded by Tihara, her mother and her grandfather, can be explored on the Museum of London website. For more on Windrush, see the Windrush Stories page on the Museum of London Docklands website.
This month marks 150 years since the passing of the Hampstead Heath Act, which confirmed the heath as a public open space, and, to celebrate, the City of London Corporation, the Heath & Hampstead Society and other partners have launched a year of commemorations. Upcoming planned highlights include an outdoor exhibition showcasing the heath’s history and the significance of the 1871 Act which will be launched on the heath (on the main path leading onto the heath from the Hampstead Heath Overground Station) on 23rd June, a community fun day (27th June), an outdoor cinema screening (8th September), a summer music event (tentatively scheduled for 5th September) and historic walks as well as an Historic Postcard Project featuring an interactive online map with historic images of the heath. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath.
The courtyard at Somerset House has been transformed into a forest as part of the London Design Biennale. Forest for Change – The Global Goals Pavilion features some 400 trees with clearing in the middle containing an installation aimed at raising awareness of the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The biennale also features a series of more than 30 pavilions from across all six continents – created in response to the theme ‘resonance’ – which have been placed in rooms and outdoor areas throughout the property. Among the countries represented with pavilions are Antarctica, Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Poland, Taiwan, and Venezuela. Others, including Italy, Nile Region, Norway, New York City and Pakistan, are taking part digitally. There’s also an exhibition – Design in an Age of Crisis – showcasing radical design thinking from the world’s design community, the public, and young people, as well as a series of installations by a selected group of universities and galleries in which they demonstrate their contribution to global issues through design under the banner of ‘Sustainability and Innovation’. The biennale runs all month. Admission charge applies. For more and to book tickets, head to www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/london-design-biennale-2021.
The Bow Street Police Museum, located on the site of the 1881 Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station, has opened its doors in Covent Garden. The museum tells the story of the early Bow Street Runners, the first official law enforcement service in the city, and the Metropolitan Police officers who came after. Visitors can explore the former cells and hear the stories of those who once worked in the building. The connections between Bow Street and the constabulary dates back to 1740 when Thomas de Veil opened a Magistrates’ Court in his family home at number four Bow Street in the 18th century and continued until the closure of the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in 2006. Among the famous faces who passed through Bow Street’s police station and court over that time were Oscar Wilde, Suffragettes Sylvia Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst and Mrs Drummond, and the Kray twins. For more, head to https://bowstreetpolicemuseum.org.uk.
The Megalosaurus dinosaur at Crystal Palace Park recently underwent an emergency face-lift to ensure it’s still looking its best for visitors following the lifting of lockdowns. The 167-year-old, Grade I-listed statue is said to be a favourite among the 30 sculptures in the collection at the park. Skilled craftsmen had to make and fit 22 new teeth on the 3.5 metre high and 10 metre long sculpture as well as a new nose and light-weight ‘prosthetic’ jaw. The work – which was supported by a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund (awarded by Historic England), the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs and Bromley Council – was carried out by conservation company Taylor Pearce. It was needed after the jaw on the beast collapsed last May and comes after all 30 of the life-sized sculptures were added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register early last year. First unveiled in 1854 (just 10 years after the term ‘dinosaur’ had been coined), the sculptures were made by renowned artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. For more on the dinosaurs and the 80 hectare park in which they stand, see www.bromley.gov.uk/crystalpalacepark.
Swans on Barnes Pond, West London. PICTURE: John Cameron/Unsplash