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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Soundbridge 2025 and Camley Street Park

“In merging nature and culture the most successful cities combine such universal needs as maintaining or restoring contact with the cycles of nature, with specific, local characteristics.” ~Sally A. Kitt Chappell, architectural historian and author

   At Kings Cross Visitor's Centre the woman staffing the desk told us about a pocket nature reserve hidden in plain sight, sandwiched between the enormous ribbon of tracks entering St, Pancras Station parallel to Camley Street on the west side and a curve of the Regents Canal to the east, with the 1851 Coal and Fish Offices fronting the canal across the way. 
   The woman gave us explicit directions, a small map of the area, and said Camley Park was only a ten minute walk away at most! Les and I became city sleuths, ferreting out a slice of paradise hidden in plain sight. We went back to the boat to grab some batteries for my camera and off we went, walking along the canal with NB Valerie behind us, headed towards another set of stairs up to Goods Way just beyond the bridge. Just beyond our boat I spotted a blue disc mounted on the brick wall. What is it???
NB Valerie is moored out of sight  to the left. Remember the cranes? Keep an eye out for them as we go along. They will help you understand distance and orientation between places in the Kings Cross area of Greater London.
Soundbridge 2025 plaque: commemorating an international research project investigating culture-led city regeneration.
According to the London Festival of Architecture:
    "Students from MA Creative Practice for Narrative Environments and BA Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, have worked in multidisciplinary teams with local communities, local businesses and artists and designers from Italy, Slovenia and Prague to produce a gift of sound created by the present communities of King's Cross for the communities of the future. This collection of sounds, stories and memories have been recorded onto a vinyl that will act as a sound capsule to be opened in 2025..." (© LFA 2012, accessed online 06/07/13.)
In the words of the student artists involved in the project:
   "To acknowledge the fast and dramatic changes that are occurring in this area , our team wanted to build links between both the existing and future communities of Kings Cross. We decided to achieve this using sound, recognising the psychological importance sound plays in both individual and collective memories of a physical space.
   We are involving the local community in creating a sound gift for the future inhabitants of King’s Cross. A mobile recording studio will travel around the area inviting residents and visitors to contribute their sound gifts. These recordings will then be edited and pressed onto a vinyl disc – the most enduring and retrievable form of sound recording." (© Soundbridge 2025 Team, 2012, accessed online 06/07/13)
© 2012 Liza Tijon, Soundbridge 2025 member
      On June 29th, 2012 a sound ceremony was held and the recordings were broadcast publicly, placed in the time capsule, and buried in a wall amongst the development at Kings Cross in Granary Square. Eighty eight team members spent months wheeling a mobile sound booth around Kings Cross interviewing 109 subjects to create this audio gift to the community, essentially creating an audio map of Kings Cross! If you are interested in learning more about the recordings click here. If you would like to learn more about the team members and follow the project in real time visit the Soundbridge 2025 FaceBook page
   Art is present everywhere in Kings Cross. Les and I were literally tripping over it! Hard to believe we were having such fun amongst the largest urban re-development scheme in Europe as it unfolded around us.
   As we climbed up steps to street level I noticed the brick wall facing the canal. It hides something called a gas governor which controls the pressure of gas lines traveling to commercial and domestic buildings. I love the way it undulates along instead of existing as a hard, straight line through the landscape. The Wavy Wall: Art and practicality holding hands. 
   On the street we turned right, walking down Goods Way. The giant construction site with the six cranes was directly across the street. As we walked away from it, we were amazed to find ourselves strolling parallel to a living wall!
Providing food for urban bees and beauty for the rest of us, this living wall is hiding the front of the gas governor, the back of which is the wavy wall! How cool is that?!!

  At the end of this living wall we turned right onto Camley Street. Across they way is a solid brick railway embankment supporting the mass of rail lines going into St. Pancras station. Just a short jaunt down this street is Camley Street Natural Park, a two acre reserve cheek by jowl with the Regents Canal, St. Pancras railway, and the St. Pancras Cruising Club. 
   Owned by the London Wildlife Trust, this lovely park is one of thirty five in the Greater London area. Its mission is to educate London citizens--especially children--about nature on their doorstep. Inside are pond, meadow, and woodland habitats and a specially sponsored Wildlife on the Waterways project. 
The main office where school groups, volunteers and staff check in.
A path meanders around to a section with firewood, picnic tables...
an arbor for shade and planting boxes each with an old apple variety growing happily.There are also beehives! Educational programs are held here about everything from sustainable gardening and beekeeping, to wildlife surveys in and on the water, meadow and woodland. Camley Park is an urban child's' wonderland.
   The trail took off parallel to the Regents canal which we glimpsed as we walked along, enjoying the leaf green stillness which dampened the city noise beyond this two acre patch of urban paradise.
A bathtub garden! Nature can grow and flourish in so many different and creative ways.
Wild Food Forest Garden...
and Edible Green Plants...with the canal behind.
These steps lead from Camley Park down to their floating canal pontoons filled with plants. Across the way is the Fish and Coal Offices with the Western Transit Shed peeking out from behind the top.
Blue pimpernels with a view of the Fish and Coal offices across the way!
A lovely view of narrow boats moored in front the the Fish and Coal Offices, just before Granary Square beyond.
    The path curves away from the canal and strikes out for the middle of the acreage at Camley Park. Where does it lead? Having never read anything about this little emerald gem we have no idea what's down the path--but Les and I are happy to let our legs carry us along on a journey of discovery.
    Tiny white flowers glow like stars in the green shade of a late spring afternoon. Ferns brush our legs as we pass, and trees lean this way and that as the soft carpet of wood shavings beckons us along.
 Suddenly the trees drop away and a pond appears! Cat tails--or bulrushes as they are called in England--wear woolly white seed hats as they stand tall along the water's edge.
  The wooden frames support aquatic wildlife and allow surveys to take place within the parameter of the frames. A nearby dock hosts nets, jars, and other items used by London children to discover water fauna and wildlife during the process of pond dipping. It's a great way to capture frog spawn in a jar to watch the tadpoles hatch out.
   Later in summer marsh marigolds, bog asphodels, pimpernels and yellow flag will glow with color nearby. Birds sang, bees hummed, and someone's cat was creeping low, hunting in its very own urban jungle!
   The path lured us away from the heart of the park towards its western edge...
 ...where a round conversation pit sat empty--waiting for the melody of children's voices in the cool, quiet as long evening shadows fell.
   We sauntered along the pathways until we found ourselves back where we started. Saying goodbye to Camley Park, we stepped back out of the gates and onto Camley street...
back into the urban jungle where we looked to our left and spotted the construction cranes over St. Pancras Square and Kings Cross; the same six cranes just above our mooring on the canal. But we were not headed back to NB Valerie just yet. There is another hidden jewel in Kings Cross very nearby so we crossed the street to venture a bit further from our home. More in the next blog post!

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NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs