Peak bloom at Thames Barrier Park

Thames Barrier Park, LondonThames Barrier Park is one of those slightly random places in London that I tend to read about and never visit.

Built in 2001, next to, you guessed it, the Thames Barrier, it’s a really cutting edge bit of garden design and I’ve seen photos of it in magazines, online, and, frequently, in lectures at my garden design course.

Thames barriers

And yet, it always seemed so far away and hard to reach that I’d never had quite enough impetus to go and visit. And that’s coming from someone who already lives in London.

But at the end of July, we had a scheduled visit on my course, so I hit the jubilee line and then the DLR and set off for Pontoon Dock, the station beside the park. (Side note: Pontoon Dock! What a fabulous name!)

My reservations about travelling so far must be shared by others. It was a gloriously sunny day, but the park was all but deserted, apart from my gaggle of eager garden designers to be.

The park is surrounded by a huge amount of new buildings and new building work, bordered at one edge by the river and the barriers, and at the other by the DLR line, and directly under the flight path of City Airport, with planes taking off and landing every few minutes. Yet, despite the noise and the bustle, it’s a surprisingly relaxing place to be.

Thames Barrier Park

At the centre of the design is the sunken garden: the one you’ll probably already recognise from photos. Clipped hedges of yew are shaped into huge rows of undulating waves, the long lines leading your eye all the way down the barriers. Interspersed with the green yew is a range of colourful perennials and grasses which, when we visited, were at peak bloom.

Rolling waves of yew hedging
Thames Barrier Park in July

Thames Barrier ParkIt’s an impressive and innovative spectacle, no doubt, but maintenance issues were apparent when we visited (and, I think, all the time) as the clipped forms need constant care and were growing straggly in places and had even died off completely in others.

You can walk down into the garden and wander along the lines of plants, but it’s really designed to be viewed from one of the bridges that cross over its width.

That instagram fave, the hydrangea, was in full flower when we visited

Around the main area, is a swathe of wildflower meadows, interspersed with a grid of birch trees and, I have to confess, I found this a more enjoyable place to sit and spend time. The semi-natural environment provided more of a relief from all the construction and hard lines around, and it was lovely to watch the grasses waft in the wind and the bees landing on the flowers.

wild flower meadow wild flowers

I would say it’s well worth a visit if you’re already in the area, but that begs the question who would be in the area and why? I wondered exactly why such a contemporary garden had been built here and whether the original intention was to draw people to this rather neglected part of the docklands simply to come and see it? If so, I’m not sure it’s been successful, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve visited…

I am delighted to say I am joining in with Annie Spratt’s wonderful How does your garden grow once again. Annie’s has long been one of my fave blogs to visit and I was really sad when Annie announced her decision to stop blogging recently, and over the moon when she decided to resurrect HDYGG again. Do go over and visit everyone else’s posts, there’s always some great inspiration to be found…








10 thoughts on “Peak bloom at Thames Barrier Park

  1. Apparently it was built on one of London’s most polluted sites as it was formerly a chemical factory. Maybe they thought nobody would be interested in building housing or offices on such a site. Whatever the reason it’s a lovely addition to the area but just a shame it’s not that well known.

    1. Oh yes, don’t get me wrong, I am all for parks and gardens above buildings every day of the week! I just wondered why they chose to build such a contemporary (high-maintenance) design here, rather than somewhere more central where more people would see it, Though, I guess the answer to that is also, well why the heck not?!

  2. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of the Thames Barrier Park until I read your post — how did I not know about it!? Those yew hedges are pretty impressive but I’m not surprised they were looking scraggly in places. I will add this to my list of places to visit in London 🙂

  3. Ah you are far too kind and lovely!

    I recognised the wavey hedges from a past HDYGG from Stephanie, it’s really striking. It seems a shame that it’s not more central or easier to get to. I complain about cutting our grass here, I would be no use with that level of maintenance would I!

    Loving the sneaky hydrangea shot – you know how to treat us well 🙂

    Thank you for joining in again pickle, it’s jolly good of you x

  4. Those wave hedges are a wonderful idea but how sad that they appear a bit less maintained than they need to be to show off their true glory – I do sometimes think that garden designers do not have a complete hold on the reality of maintenance – but that said were I were to be in the area I’d certainly go and have a look. #HDYGG

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