Thames Barrier Park: a park worth visiting

View of the wave pattern formed by the clipped yew hedges

Looking across the Green Dock to the silver hoods of the Thames Barrier beyond

Detail of the 20' high concrete walls lined with Lonicera planted on the green wall principle of planting pockets with irrigation

Children enjoy running through the water jets on the water plaza

Water plaza at the Parc Andre Citroen

Strips of planting line the paths round the edges of the park

Strips of parallel planting on a bank lining a path in the Parc Andre Citroen

Situated next to the Pontoon Dock on the Docklands Light Railway, the Thames Barrier Park opened in 2000.  Originally a derelict and contaminated brown field site housing petrochemical and dye works and an armaments factory on the river bank, it stretches between the railway line and the Thames Barrier and won an award for the Best Open Space (Britain) in 2008. An international competition held in 1995 to design the park was won by French landscape architect Alain Provost, who had previously designed the Parc André Citroën in Paris with Gilles Clément, itself a former site of the Citroën car factory.

A sunken space called the ‘Green Dock’ lies 20ft below the rest of the park, a reference to the site’s dockland heritage. In contrast to its stark form it provides a sheltered microclimate for the ‘rainbow garden’, parallel strips of planting and paths. Here you will see rows of undulating clipped yew hedges resembling waves of water separated by strips of lawn, colourful shrubs such as Ceanothus, Perovskia and Hydrangea quercifolia and perennials like Acanthus spinosus and geraniums. There is also a water plaza featuring 32 jets of water of differing heights in a dancing display rising from the pavement which children love to run through, something also present in the Parc André Citroën. A bridge across the dock allows views of the planting below, and the beautiful forms of the hoods of the Thames barrier beyond.

The rest of the park features contrasting open and closed views of the Thames through copses of birch trees creating informal private spaces.  There are trees planted in a geometric wedge pattern bounded by straight gravel paths running across the site, leading the eye on. Other paths lined with coppiced beech feature linear planting along their outer edges, another similarity to the park in Paris.

At the river end of the dock is the Pavilion of Remembrance commemorating those who died in the war. It consists of 23 irregularly spaced steel columns supporting a slatted timber roof with large circular hole. There is also a pavilion cafe with large corner doors which open right out in warm weather.

The park is open daily from 7am until dusk and is maintained by a park manager with the help of four regular gardeners. Most of the weeds are dug out by hand and 80 per cent of all the waste recycled.

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About Borderline Garden Design

I work as a landscape and garden designer in the Oxfordshire/Berkshire area.
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