Thursday, 21 May 2009


Last night we where told that Chelsea has no lawns this year. All football jokes aside (because I don't know any) it's an interesting idea.

A friend of mine, visiting from the Netherlands, remarked that the British and a tendency to find an empty bit of land, plonk a lawn in it and sit there. It's what we do. But really is that the best way?

My favourite lawn in a good example of their darker side. The grand sweeping lawn of Cockington is a pure English village postcard. Against all odds a cricket pitch lies in the centre, the lawn slopes down on all sides. Trees, both natives and relics of a botanically minded ancestor, surround it.

Our image of this lawn is something pure and natural. Anglophiles and bankers wishing to escape to the country may even be swooning. But before a cricket pitch sat on that lawn, before the lawn itself that little patch of land was in use. It was home.

On that site stood the Almshouses. Almshouses are provided for the needy so it was quite a useful plot of land. Certainly if you live there you would think that a lawn was a wast. Not so for the people living inside the Manor. There quest for rural, sweeping 'what England should look like' views lead them to demolish the houses and put in grass. The almshouses where moved elsewhere. Must have sucked.

Still, more than a few years after the fact, I enjoy the lawn for lounging and reading. Others play cricket, some erect gazebos and have picnics. Not all lawns are like that though. I can't imagine reading on the ornamental patch of grass outside the flat. It's just there as punctuation in an expanse of parked cars.

Even if the grass is given up to the people it isn't always accessible. For the last couple of years the grass in Piccadilly Gardens (my favourite green space in the centre of Manchester) has been covered in 6' fencing. Each patch of grass takes it in turns to be replaced after the scorching sun has killed it off. While neighbors are left untouched for you to lie on the effect isn't the same.

So Chelsea doing away with lawns. Is is a victory for the little people who had their housed destroyed? Not really. In the most part what was once grass is currently hard landscaping (ie not plants). They make interesting viewing but is this really the type of garden design we should be looking at?

I have no idea. Lawns certainly have their uses. Aside form sitting they do give water somewhere to go other than sitting on tarmac. At the same time they are labour intensive for what they are. And the path to have a green, daisy free lawn is one of environmental irresponsibility. But when you have nothing but a few beams of wood suspended in the sky grass is a dream. And a welcome sight.

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