Abandoned Victorian Dockyard Comes to Life

Friday 10 April 2015

RHS helps local community turn wasteland to green space

  •  Hidden Cody Dock transformed by Gasworks Dock Partnership to reveal London’s second river
  •  RHS brings hundreds of flowers to help open up London’s secret dock
  •  One of 6,000 grey spaces to be turned green by RHS over next three years
  •  Friday 10 April: RHS launches Greener Streets: Better Lives campaign

A forgotten historic London dockyard, which was at the heart of Britain’s manufacturing in the years following the Industrial Revolution, is about to be opened up to the public, unlocking 26 miles of walkways and gardens alongside London’s second river, the Lea.

The inspirational Cody Dock project is the work of 2,000 fervently committed and enthusiastic residents and local businesses, who have transformed the derelict dock over the past three years. One final stretch of riverside pathway on the 2-acre site remains to be cleared and opened up. On Friday 10 April, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) will join volunteers on this final patch of concrete to create a beautiful riverside walk, packed with flowers.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal-winning garden designers and RHS Ambassadors, Chris Beardshaw and Adam Frost, will be joined by RHS Ambassador Nick Knowles to bring a flourish of vivid colour to the dock. Surrounded by houseboats, bridges and river wildlife and with striking views of Canary Wharf, the City and the Prime Meridian laser, they will bring their horticultural skills to the 140-year old site.

The project is the first of 6,000 unloved grey spaces to be transformed into planted-up, living places for people to enjoy as part of a new Britain in Bloom with the RHS campaign, Greener Streets: Better Lives1, which will aim to benefit the environment over the next three years. A 300,000-strong army of Britain in Bloom volunteers will plant millions of trees, perennials, shrubs and hedges across the UK. The RHS will also give communities 250,000 nasturtium seeds to kick start the campaign.

The Greener Streets: Better Lives campaign forms part of a wider RHS call to action to get the nation Greening Grey Britain², to address the creeping loss of green spaces across the UK’s towns, cities and villages3. In 2015, parks face a crippling lack of proper funding and gardens continue to lose out to paving for cars. This trend for grey replacing green degrades the living environment, increasing flood risk and reducing air quality. It also has dire consequences for wildlife and has been linked to growing mental and physical health problems.

Cody Dock will become a gateway to the Lea Valley and a thriving creative area for East London, featuring public gardens and artists’ studios and offering public workshops, practical apprenticeships, a dry dock for servicing boats, storytelling areas for children, and a new marina for houseboats, all with a brand new perspective on London. On 23 May, a new sculpture trail, The Line, will follow the path of the Meridian Line through the area, bringing Damien Hirst’s bronze ‘Sensation’ to Cody Dock.

Simon Myers, who leads the Gasworks Dock Partnership, said: “We are aiming to shine a light on London’s second river. For the past three years, 2,000 of us have covered every inch of an uncelebrated piece of London’s heritage, in a bid to create something special in a genuinely overlooked part of London. Newham boasts more waterways than Venice, but is unknown to most Londoners. Since we began the project, the site has gone from being a dumping ground for 10ft-high piles of industrial waste, to a green, living haven for kingfishers, cormorants, reed warblers, teal and redshanks. It is now about to become a tranquil riverside destination for thousands of visitors. We are very excited to have enlisted the help of the RHS to remove the final obstacle preventing people from strolling all over the dock and discovering and appreciating the beauty and history of the area.”

In its heyday at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, the dock was filled with 50,000 people, employed at the gas and chemical works created by industrialist Harper Twelvetrees, whose company developed Penny Patent soap powder. The area was also home to the coachworks of engineers George and Robert Stephenson and the Bryant and May match factory. For the last 25 years it has remained abandoned and forgotten but will soon be a hive of activity once more.

On 10 April, volunteers will build a parade of wooden planters along the length of the final stretch of riverside walkway, complemented by a central path of timber pergolas. Adam Frost has consulted the dockyard team to ensure the plants and hard landscaping meet their needs by including raised beds to grow food and plants for birds, bees and butterflies, all with the aim of creating a beautiful place for people to enjoy.

RHS Director General Sue Biggs said: “Greener Streets: Better Lives is a public challenge to create new colourful havens for wildlife and fight the developing concrete jungle in a beautiful way. Even a solitary pot of bee-friendly chives on an outside ledge can create feelings of connection to the environment and just sprinkling a packet of forget-me-not seeds on a patch of brown earth can be rewarding.

“The Greener Streets: Better Lives community campaign forms part of an RHS call to action for the nation to get Greening Grey Britain. Anyone can get involved by creating a windowbox, pulling up a paving stone and planting up the space, having potted plants in a front garden or transforming a grey community area. Greening Grey Britain can be as big or small as you like, but we can all make a difference, one plant at a time.”

Speaking about how other communities can get involved, Adam Frost said: “Projects can range from planting along public walls, and revitalising bald roundabouts or neglected verges with nasturtium seeds, to using planters and raised beds to brighten up a concrete corner, or creating a community garden with friends. While the proposition is simple, the possibilities are huge.”

Talking about why the campaign matters, newly appointed RHS Ambassador Chris Beardshaw said: “The increasing greyness across the UK should concern us all, we know the detrimental effect it can cause for our wildlife, the quality of the air we breathe and the increased risks of flooding as drainage routes disappear.

“By contrast, green spaces make us happier and brighten days. Also, mental and physical issues such as depression, heart disease and obesity are reduced among people with access to outside space, plants and the world of nature. To make a stand against concrete sprawl, RHS Bloom volunteers will transform unloved and unspectacular parts of their neighbourhood into something beautiful and make more public space greener.”

To register for Greener Streets: Better Lives, download ideas and resources and apply for free nasturtium seeds, community gardening groups should visit rhs.org.uk/GreenerStreetsBetterLives or telephone 020 7821 3122.


Notes to editors

Issued by The Press Office. For further information and images, please contact Michael Barrett on 020 8295 2424, 07813 558772 or mb@thepressoffice.uk.com

Greener Streets: Better Lives participants are encouraged to get started during National Gardening Week, 13–19 April 2015. The RHS website is full of practical information and tips to help people get started. The RHS is also offering a free packet of nasturtium seeds to every community group that registers to take part. Once people have taken part they can share their pictures at facebook.com/rhscommunitygardening and spread the word further on Twitter by using #GreenerStreetsBetterLives

Greening Grey Britain is the overarching RHS call to action asking the nation to transform hard, cold grey areas into beautiful places, to enrich lives and benefit the environment. Throughout 2015, initiatives across Britain in Bloom with the RHS, RHS Flower Shows, Gardens and shops, and RHS Scientists will highlight the detrimental impact of paving over Britain and demonstrate how anyone and everyone can plant up an area of hard landscaping, however small or large, to bring about improvements ranging from better health and wellbeing and providing food for bees and butterflies, to reducing flood risks and making Britain more beautiful.

Full supporting facts, figures and tips available separately. A few highlights:
Current models predict that a 10% increase in vegetated surfaces in urban areas would help control the rise in summertime air temperatures due to climate change.
In Leeds, there has been a 13% increase in impervious surfaces over the last 30 years, 75% of which was due to the paving of front gardens.
Urban gardens help keep our cities ‘above water’. Garden plants and trees intercept intense rain, slowing runoff and so reducing the pressure on urban drains. Unlike hard surfaces, the soil in gardens naturally absorbs rainwater, reducing the risk of flooding in our towns and cities.
45% of local authorities are considering either selling parks or green spaces, or transferring their management to others. Source – HLF State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to Risk.
Trees, hedges and climbers can reduce heating costs and energy consumption by up to 30% by reducing the speed of air movement reaching a building (providing a ‘wind break’) and/or reducing the temperature difference between existing and incoming air.

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, the first of our gardens, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 211 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk/join

Britain in Bloom with the RHS
UK’s biggest community gardening campaign with up to 300,000 passionate local volunteers who work year-round to keep our neighbourhoods and streets green, clean and thriving
Bloom started by the British Tourist Authority as a way to attract visitors to the UK through floral displays. In 2001, the RHS took over as organisers & have developed the campaign to include greater focus on community participation & environmental responsibility
In 2006, the RHS launched a new grass roots level for Bloom – It’s Your Neighbourhood (IYN) is aimed at small volunteer groups (e.g. youth groups; ‘Friends of’ groups etc.) and has grown from 342 to nearly 2,000 groups
Since 1964, Bloom’s evolved from what many saw as a rural hanging basket competition to a major socio / environmental campaign that’s improving villages, towns and cities across UK

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262