Guest Blog: Jeremy Rye, Landscape Architect, on “Wilderness”

2018-10-20-17.05.55-1-e1550678815815.jpgAhead of his upcoming LPGT lecture on ‘The Shirley Wilderness: An early ecological garden’, Jeremy Rye, Landscape Architect, writes about problem solving through walking in his favourite piece of “wilderness”.

All are invited to attend the lecture on 11 March at 6.30pm.

Find out more and book tickets online.


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In my recent article for London Landscapes (Autumn/Winter 2018) I posed a question on the term “wild” and how a lack of man’s intervention into the landscape could increase our connection to landscape, with therapeutic outcomes. In this blog I take that idea further by sharing my experience of using these “wild” landscapes to get my own clarity of thinking.

The term “solvitur ambulando” is usually used to mean a problem solved by practical experiment. For me its literal translation is more accurate: ‘solved by walking’.

Whenever there is anything I need to think through or ‘feel into’ I inevitably turn to a favourite piece of wilderness, a wild place of my own discovery that gives me a certain type of walking, a variety of sensual stimulation allowing me to get lost, lost in my own self.


Walking in wilderness cuts through everything that I allow to get in my way; through what the world puts in front of me, guiding me to a place of clear thinking and clear feeling, where answers to my challenging questions become inevitable and unavoidable.

Since I first discovered it, one such place has been the Black Down Hills near Haslemere on the Surrey/Sussex border. Beloved by Alfred, Lord Tennyson who walked there frequently, and painted by Helen Allingham, this landscape is not hidden away or secluded in the more traditional understanding of wild.


What is it about this place that holds a sense of the wild, allowing me to solve my problems by walking? Let me first ask another question. Should the definition of “wild” not depend on distance from some established marker, but rather on the spirit or essence that gives us permission to disconnect from everything surrounding us in our daily lives? The term “wild” would therefore denote not remoteness, but the land’s ability to forge a reconnection to that part to ourselves not influenced by outside forces: our pure inner voice, our own inner wild.

Black Down reconnects me. Managed by the National Trust, it is a combination of a variety of types of walking from elevated heathland, to ancient-feeling hollow ways, steep climbs and stunning views. It is a wonderful piece of landscape offering the possibility to walk into myself. Answering my question, it is a place where the minimal intervention of man is tangible.


Its power comes not only from its remoteness or its being untouched by human hands. I believe that being in and walking through the landscape has therapeutic effects on us. Ideally, this landscape is one where man’s intervention is minimal. The connection to the natural, ancient, wild, untamed landscape gives me access to deep parts of myself and brings true clarity of thought.

Landscape walking has been a constant in my life. I have taken others on this walk to facilitate them reaching clarity of thinking and feeling. I am lucky I can access wilderness sites – others cannot. This is one of the most exciting aspects of the Shirley Wilderness: it reintroduces a connection to the wild fully accessible to all, thus making the therapeutic benefits derived from connecting with that inner wild place available to walkers and non-walkers alike.

Learn more about Jeremy’s upcoming lecture, and to book your ticket

Your chance to visit the garden of 10 Downing Street: public ballot opens 19 February

10 Downing Street is the official residence and office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the place where the Prime Minister welcomes distinguished guests – from Her Majesty The Queen and world leaders to businesses and charities.

10 Downing Street © Jay Allen

As part of Open Garden Squares Weekend, the London Parks & Gardens Trust is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit 10 Downing Street and take an exclusive guided tour of the garden. You do not need to have purchased an Open Garden Squares Weekend ticket to enter the ballot.

Entry is allotted via a public ballot, which will be open between midday on 19 February and midday on 21 March. The winners will be contacted shortly thereafter. There will be two tours on Sunday 9 June 2019, at 11.30am and 1.30pm, with 24 places available on each tour.

ENTER THE BALLOT (From 12 noon on 19 February)

About the garden

The terrace and garden at Downing Street were constructed in 1736, shortly after Robert Walpole moved in. The garden is dominated by an open lawn of half an acre that wraps around in an L-shape. There is a central flowerbed with flower urns, a bench and an arch. Tubs of flowers line the terrace and roses line the main pathway through the garden.

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10 Downing Street © Jay Allen

The garden features an attractive bronze sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, a pond and some lovely trees. Ducks have often nested there before mum and ducklings are escorted back to St James Park! A small vegetable garden produces radishes, spring onions, tomatoes and lettuce. There are bird-feeding tables where birds as exotic as a parakeet have been seen feeding.

The garden is looked after by Paul Schooling, who was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in 2015 for his 31 years of public service to some of London’s most precious and unique spaces. He has worked at Downing Street for 27 years.

Open Gardens Squares Weekend

If you miss out on the ballot this year, don’t despair! You can still explore a selection of some of the best gardens in the city, which are not normally open to the public, as part of Open Garden Squares Weekend on 8-9 June.

Leinster Square Gardens © Diana Jarvis 5865.jpg
Leinster Square Gardens © Diana Jarvis

With the purchase of an Open Garden Squares Weekend ticket, you can explore a huge variety of amazing hidden gardens, and enjoy a host of activities and experiences for all the family.

Full price tickets are £15, with discounts available for students (£12), young people aged 12-18 (£8), and for groups of 15 or more (£13 per person). Under 12s go free! 


Tickets now on sale for OGSW 2019: everything you need to know

Advance tickets for Open Garden Squares Weekend are on sale now! Discover an inspirational variety of private spaces across Central London on 8-9 June 2019 and save money on weekend rates by booking your ticket early.

Buy tickets online now

Ticket prices

Alara Permaculture Forest Garden © Anna Barclay 7
Alara Permaculture Forest Garden © Anna Barclay

Weekend ticket prices are as follows, until 8 May at 11.59am:

Adults – £15
Students – £12
Young people (12-18 years old) – £8
Children under 12 – free

Carers are entitled to a free ticket if accompanying a ticket holder.

Tickets will then be sold at full price from 12 noon on 8 May, as follows:

Adults – £20
Students – £16
Young people (12-18 years old) – £10

If you become a member of the London Parks & Gardens Trust, your Open Gardens Squares Weekend ticket is included in your membership package. You can find out more about Trust membership or join online.

Please note that tickets are non-refundable. Whilst we do our best to minimise any last minute cancellations and withdrawals, circumstances may be beyond our control and so we advise not buying a ticket purely to see one particular garden.

How does my ticket work?

Eversheds Sutherland Vegetable Garden © Diana Jarvis 5370
Eversheds Sutherland Vegetable Garden © Diana Jarvis

Your ticket grants access to all participating gardens apart from those with balloted entry on both Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 June 2019. See our Activities web page for more details of how to enter garden ballots, where necessary.

Gardens opening times and days may vary, so please check Garden details on the website for more details before planning your weekend.

When you buy a ticket online, you will be emailed an e-ticket to either show on your phone or print out and use over the Weekend.

How do I get hold of the guidebook?

If you buy an advance ticket, you will receive a guidebook by post in May 2019. One guidebook will be posted out per single ticket, and then one per two tickets thereafter.

Unfortunately we cannot post guidebooks overseas, but they will be available for collection in gardens over the Weekend. We can also post guidebooks to a nominated address, such as a hotel.

What about activities and events?

Royal College of Physicians' Medicinal Garden © Anna Barclay 9
Royal College of Physicians’ Medicinal Garden © Anna Barclay

Activities and events take place in many gardens over the Weekend, and we also offer a range of guided walks and cycle rides telling the stories that link together London’s green spaces. Watch this space for details of activities as they’re confirmed and as booking opens, where applicable. The majority of events are ‘drop in’ activities and you won’t need to book, but some – such as guided walks – must be booked in advance.

Can I buy a ticket by post?

Tickets are available to buy via the London Parks & Gardens Trust office until Wednesday 8 May.  Please send a stamped address envelope and payment by cash or cheque, payable to the London Parks & Gardens Trust, to:

Duck Island Cottage, St James’s Park, London SW1A 2BJ

Guest blog: Kew Curator Lynn Parker describes the confluence of science and art in plant drawings

Celmisia vernicosa (Hook.f.) by Walter Hood Fitch, preparatory watercolour and graphite drawing for plate 26-27, volume 1 of Hooker, J.D., The botany of the Antarctic… 1844 ©RBG, Kew

Ahead of her upcoming LPGT winter lecture on ‘Plant Drawings at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew’, Lynn Parker, Curator of Illustrations and Artefact Collections, writes about two of her favourite illustrators.

All are invited to attend the lecture on 11 February at 6.30pm: you can find out more and book tickets online.

The Illustrations Collection at Kew is made up of more than 200,000 individual works comprised of watercolours, pencil or ink sketches, prints and line drawings. When selecting highlights from the Collection for my talk, I found it very difficult to include everything that I would have liked, and had to narrow down my selection of images and the topics covered. With that in mind, I would like to use this blog to explore the approaches to drawing of two of my favourite illustrators, Stella Ross-Craig and Walter Hood Fitch.

I have been working with the Collection for over ten years, and am often asked why Kew, a centre of botanical research, has an art collection at all. I do not consider our Collection to be ‘art’ in the conventional sense – we do not hold examples of ‘flower painting’ or still life. Everything we have must be useful to the botanists and must act as a tool that can be used to understand and express scientific information.

Glaucium flavum, pen and ink by Stella Ross-Craig, Drawings of British Plants, 1948 © RBG, Kew

It would be true to say that a large proportion of our illustrations are not paintings at all, but scientific line diagrams, though this is not to say that they are not intricately composed and skilfully completed. One of the leading names of line drawing in the 20th century was Stella Ross-Craig. Her talent for line-work is, in my opinion, best represented in her Drawings of British Plants, an extensive multi-volume work published between 1947 and 1974 and illustrating a remarkable 1,316 species of British plants.

Each specimen is represented using Ross-Craig’s signature style, exhibiting a dynamic and well-balanced composition incorporating the various dissections and magnifications necessary to convey scientific information. In preparing to make a drawing, Stella would “study the plant from all angles… to grasp its character”. When she had no live plants at her disposal she would use pressed and dried herbarium specimens, using her pencil to restore their essence, something she said was only possible through “a thorough knowledge of botany and of perspective”.

Celmisia vernicosa var. mollicula, pressed and dried herbarium specimen collected by Joseph Dalton Hooker, Campbell Island, New Zealand, before 1843 ( © RBG, Kew

This ability to work from dried specimens is what I believe sets botanical illustrators apart. The 19th century botanical artist Walter Hood Fitch was justifiably proud of his expertise in working from dried herbarium specimens to create precise illustrations, believing that “sketching living plants is merely a species of copying” while working from dried specimens allowed him to demonstrate his “abilities to the uttermost.” The ability to understand and convey botanical anatomy was vital, in many respects supplanting colour, for “the absence of the former cannot be compensated by any excellence in the latter”.

Fitch would have consulted the dried herbarium specimen of celmisia vernicosa pictured here, for example, to produce the drawing at the top of this post; the specimen was collected by his colleague, the botanist (and Kew Director) Joseph Dalton Hooker, with whom Fitch collaborated to produce numerous illustrations for Hooker’s many publications.

One of the key things about the creation of botanical art in an institution such as Kew is that it gives the artists the chance to work alongside the scientists. Often the artist, in making the picture the botanist wants for their publication, will, in the course of doing so, observe something the scientist has not seen in making their description. This is what makes the work of artists such as Stella Ross-Craig and Walter Hood Fitch so fascinating.