Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Parks and Recreation

September 19th, 2010 · No Comments

The fact that London is 25% green absolutely boggles my mind.  I love that the English place such an emphasis on green open areas, even in the middle of their capital.  One of my favorite days during our trip here incorporated an afternoon in Regent’s Park.  After my walking tour I went to the park, armed with a book and a sunny day.  I then sat there for an hour and read.  And while I did not get much actual reading done, I experienced something far more important – the breakdown of English cultural barriers.  It started when someone’s puppy wandered over to me.  Instead of calling back their dog, the owner just smiled at me and kept going, trusting that I would respect their pet and that it would go back to its owner when it so desired.  This complete warmth towards a total stranger is not something I had experienced yet in the usually reserved London public sphere.

This breakdown of reserve was apparent the more I walked around the park.  Everywhere I looked there were older gents playing with their dogs, mothers entertaining their children, and couples walking around paying more attention to each other than to their beautiful surroundings.  While Kate Fox always talks about the English “social dis-ease” the atmosphere of Regent’s park was completely the opposite.  Both at Regent’s Park and at St. James’ Park the wealth of examples of the English comfort, not with just themselves, but with those around them, showed more warmth than I am accustomed to in Los Angeles.  It is almost as if the British use their parks as a place to escape the normally tight social boundaries regarding affection and interaction with strangers.

Parks also serve to remind the English that they’re inherently country folk.  In times of crisis throughout English history (like the Plague), those who could afford to would flock to the countryside and to their agrarian roots.  The English find safety in green open spaces and in city filled with smog and where everyone is in a constant rush, there has to be an emphasis these parks.  These parks help make London English and help to remind English Londoners that they are English.

Tags: 2010 Amy

Green space: how to find a bit of quiet in a global city

September 19th, 2010 · No Comments

The thing about a city is you always end up missing the country and the thing about the country is you always end up missing the city. This paradox is one of the reasons I’ve been happily tucked away in a suburb for most of my life (I was born in Culver City, but we left Los Angeles before I had turned four)- give me access to the things in the city that I want but with the quiet and amenities only the country can provide.

London, however, has found a better solution to the need for getting away from the city: the plethora of parks and green space that dot the metropolis like a leaky pen on super-absorbent Bounty roll. I don’t understand the psychology of it, but there’s something about having a park, “a bit of earth” as the musical The Secret Garden says, that calms the human mind. Having somewhere to walk your dog, go for a run, bicycle around, take the kids roller-skating, have a picnic, read a book, whatever you wish, somehow relieves the pressures of city life.  How the park-goers cope with inclement weather, I’ve yet to observe, but I know just finding “somewhere that’s green” (again, a musical reference – Little Shop of Horrors- I’m just on a roll tonight!) is seemingly vital to the psyche of any Londoner.

I began to feel this pull toward the park myself when I was heading over to visit the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. I exited the Tube at the aptly-named Green Park station and discovered myself to be in the midst of an enormous, sprawling park, heavily populated with people (mostly families) spending the day outside and enjoying the weather. Touched by the idyllic scene, I snapped a photo and then starting heading over to the Palace. After turning one or two corners, it was as if I had travelled to a different world instead of only walking further away from the park. The peace and tranquility of the community park was replaced with loud, overexcited tourists, all eagerly clamouring for a photo of the Palace and/or the guards. People continually bumped into me as I tried to get to the Gallery and I had to look around me at all angles to make sure I didn’t step into anyone’s photos.

Viewing the gorgeous art at the Gallery refreshed me slightly but, after fighting my way back through the crowds around the Palace gate’s, I stopped in Green Park to take a breather before heading into the congestion and confinement of the Tube station.

Where to find peace? Green Park!

A young woman might have once needed a room with a view in Italy, but I began to understand just how much the English need their room and green views [see what I did there?]

Tags: 2010 Elizabeth

Simple Beauty in Greenspace

September 19th, 2009 · No Comments

Like much of London, many of the parks in London range in appearance. This might come as a shock seeing as how parks mainly serve as green spaces. Yet, each park has a unique characteristic, appearance or vibe the moment you walk into it. Walking into Regents Park to have class was one experience I will never forget. Since Mrs. Dalloway was sent in the park it gave me more of a connection to how the characters lived, and interacted with each other. But as we sat down to have class and I observed the park, I felt as if we weren’t supposed to be there. Everything was so neatly placed that I literally felt rude for invading the space. The tone of the park gave off a “poche” vibe, making me feel even worse for sitting on the green neatly cut grass.

I can say that I felt completely opposite when I entered Green Park. Green Park felt like any other park, being noticeably smaller than Regents Park. I felt as if I entered a regular communal park in Los Angeles, until I saw Buckingham palace. Serving as the center piece for the area Buckingham palace, took all of Green Parks dignity. It made sense to me that Green Park was so small, simply because the purpose of the park was not to draw attention from the surrounding area like Regents Park but simply serve as a modest green space.

Hyde Park however, was the most beautiful parks I have ever witnessed. Regardless on which entrance you walk through the park will immediately leave you speechless. Housing over seven major sights, and a beautiful lake the park is one of the most spectacular symbols of London’s history one could see. The Diana memorial alone gave me chills. It really opened my eyes to how much she meant to the United Kingdom and emphasized her impact on not only the Uk but the world. Going from the lake, to the July 7th memorial one could get lost in the beauty of Hyde Park, as well as Hyde Park itself.

The point of the parks in London, are to illustrate the ever changing beauty that is London. Not only through the parks can you see the diversity of London’s appearance, but also the importance of its history.

Tags: Anthony