Jardínes del Turia in Valencia, Spain

"The Turia Gardens is one of the largest urban parks in Spain. It runs through the city along nine kilometres of green space boasting foot paths, leisure and sports areas, and romantic spots where you can unwind. From Cabecera Park to the City of Arts and Sciences, the Turia Gardens are the perfect place for runners, cyclists, families and nature enthusiasts. Crossed by 18 bridges full of history, the former riverbed passes by the city's main museums and monuments on either bank. The vast gardens are built on the former riverbed of the Turia, whose course was altered to prevent constant flooding in the city.

After a devastating flood on 14 October 1957, the Turia's course was diverted south of the city, leaving a huge tract of land that crosses the city from West to East, bordering the historical centre. Several urban planners and landscapists designed different sections of the park, recreating the former river scenery. They created a unique itinerary of palm trees and orange trees, fountains and pine woods, aromatic plants and ponds, sports facilities and rose beds. The gardens were inaugurated in 1986. The Cabecera Park and Bioparc border the huge gardens to the west, and the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences border it on the opposite side, near the mouth of the river. " (http://www.visitvalencia.com/en/what-to-visit-valencia/parks-gardens/turia-gardens)

I visited the Jardin del Turia a few years ago but wanted to post these pictures because I was so impressed with this park and it is a reminder how a successful green space can contribute positively to a city. The green belt is actually an old river bed that has dried up and been converted into a park and stretches over 9 kilometers. It is frequented all year by joggers, cyclists, families and tourists. It is a great connector for various parts of the city and a wonderful precedent of how a linear park can become the seam within a city - bringing things together to provide positive public space.

According to Project for Public Spaces (PPS) successful public spaces all generally have these four qualities in common: they are accessible; people are engaged in activities there; the space is comfortable and has a good image; and finally, it is a sociable place: one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit. PPS developed The Place Diagram as a tool to help people in judging any place, good or bad: 

 https://www.pps.org/reference/grplacefeat/

https://www.pps.org/reference/grplacefeat/

This park is certainly all those things, with emphasis on the access and linkages point, and you can see how successful it is by the number of people that make use of it. You can also see that there is an organisation managing the park with importance placed on safety and comfort as well as maintenance.  It may not be realistic to look at European parks as precedents for application in an African context because the challenges we face are so vastly different (crime, vandalism, homelessness, lack of funding etc.) but there are still lessons that can be learnt from them.

Some images of the Park follow below:

europe 074.jpg
Jardin del Turia
Map of Park
Bridge
 Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

Inspired by South African Indigenous Flora

I have been fortunate to listen to two presentations by Elsa Pooley: one hosted at Random Harvest Indigneous Nursery in 2015 and the other at the ILASA Conference held in September 2015 (See Previous Blog written on ILASA Conference). I also recently attended a course at The Cavern in the Drakensberg where I was able to view some examples of beautiful indigenous plants  and see examples of these plants growing in the wild.

 Turrea floribunda flowering at Random Harvest Nursery

Turrea floribunda flowering at Random Harvest Nursery

To see more about the tree in the above image visit: http://www.randomharvest.co.za/South-African-Indigenous-Plants/Show-Plant/PlantId/112?Plant=Turraea%20floribunda  

Elsa Pooley is an advocate for using indigenous plants in public and civic spaces and strongly believes that any form of rehabilitation should exclusively make use of locally indigenous species. She has spent many years studying the indigenous flora of South Africa, particularly in Kwa-Zulu Natal and knows the great potential that South African plants have, but are unfortunately not commercially grown and therefore not well known by landscapers and home owners. Fortunately for us Random Harvest is one of only a handful of nurseries in the country growing indigenous plants, many of which have until now been unavailable.

An indigenous garden can have colour all year round and although this may not always be bright flowers it can come from foliage and the variety of colour and texture from different plants. Elsa mentions how South African plants are used throughout the world but we do not necessarily appreciate their true value as we prefer to make use of exotic plants in our designs. The temptation for landscapers is to use the same old plants they always use because they are easy and work well but there are so many other plants that we could be using.

Some plants I saw in the Drakensberg that I hope to use in the future in my landscape designs:

  Pelargonium reniforme   (photographed at Engen Garage in Harrismith, all other images taken at The Cavern in the Drakensberg)

Pelargonium reniforme  (photographed at Engen Garage in Harrismith, all other images taken at The Cavern in the Drakensberg)

  Helichrysum sutherlandii  - look at this wonderful grey foliage

Helichrysum sutherlandii - look at this wonderful grey foliage

  Kniphofia northiae  - large Poker highly rated by Elsa, impressive flowers

Kniphofia northiae - large Poker highly rated by Elsa, impressive flowers

  Hesperantha coccinea  - Pink Variety, normally Red Flowers

Hesperantha coccinea - Pink Variety, normally Red Flowers

  Monopsis decipiens

Monopsis decipiens

  Inulanthera calva

Inulanthera calva

  Helichrysum hypoleucum  - likes a bit of shade

Helichrysum hypoleucum - likes a bit of shade

  Merxmuellera macowanii  - beautiful ornamental grass ( Gomphostigma  on Right)

Merxmuellera macowanii - beautiful ornamental grass (Gomphostigma on Right)

  Syncolostemon macratnhus  - tall purple pink flowering shrub

Syncolostemon macratnhus - tall purple pink flowering shrub

  Helichrysum acutatum

Helichrysum acutatum

  Metalasia densa

Metalasia densa

  Gladiolus crassifolius

Gladiolus crassifolius

  Wahlenbergia

Wahlenbergia

  Lotononis pulchella

Lotononis pulchella

  Thalictrum rhynchocarpum -  soft and delicate foliage for shady areas

Thalictrum rhynchocarpum - soft and delicate foliage for shady areas

  Seriphium plumosum  (Bankrotbos) also known as  Stoebe plumosa

Seriphium plumosum (Bankrotbos) also known as Stoebe plumosa

  Polygala virgata  (Purple Broom)

Polygala virgata (Purple Broom)

  Clematis bracteata  (Travellers Joy) - beautifully scented dainty white flowers make this an ideal creeper 

Clematis bracteata (Travellers Joy) - beautifully scented dainty white flowers make this an ideal creeper 

I hope that you will also be inspired by these beautiful plants and experiment with indigenous plants in your garden!

Random Harvest Details: 

For directions please go to our website www.randomharvest.co.za : or call 082-553-0598

Hours of business 8:00 to 17:00 Monday to Sundays

I highly recommend subscribing to Random Harvest Newsletter on their website

The Cavern - Nature Journaling Course

The Cavern hosts a variety of activities on its events calendar throughout the year including: bird weekends, yoga retreats, photography workshops and mountain bike races amoungst others. I joined the course called ‘Sketching and journaling – creating a nature journal’ hosted by two well-known figures in the botanical field: Elsa Pooley and Gillian Condy.

The Cavern

The course was run from Wednesday 1 March – Sunday 5 March 2017 and we were blessed with wonderful weather over this time. A few late afternoon showers were well timed as this was when we were indoors drawing in the studio.

 Beautiful scenery on our morning walks

Beautiful scenery on our morning walks

 View of the Hotel from a vantage point on a morning hike

View of the Hotel from a vantage point on a morning hike

 Wonderful hikes in the mountains

Wonderful hikes in the mountains

If you have ever been to The Cavern you will already be well aware of its reputation to fill your belly with the most wonderful and delicious meals as well as provide a relaxing atmosphere that makes you feel as if you have entered into a beautiful warm bubble where all you can think is “Life is Good”.

 Always fun choosing what to have for dinner from the menu!

Always fun choosing what to have for dinner from the menu!

Our programme roughly involved breakfast at 8am followed by a morning hike into the beautiful surroundings where we would stop to draw whatever caught our eye (a dam, a tree, the bridge, moss, flowers, a bubbling stream) and then tea was brought to us at our location in the bush. We would head back to camp for lunch and then in the afternoon spend time in the studio drawing the plants we brought back with us from the morning walk. Some people drew flowers, others fungi, leaves, insects or seeds.

 Working in the Studio

Working in the Studio

Elsa Pooley has the most incredible plant knowledge (which comes from her love of the area and having written several books on the subject) but it is her passion for plants that is completely contagious. She generously shares her knowledge of each plant we stop to admire, points out its special features and patiently answers all our questions (most often, “How do you spell that again?”)

 Elsa showing us a beautiful locust

Elsa showing us a beautiful locust

 Heading out for the morning walk and drawing session in the forest

Heading out for the morning walk and drawing session in the forest

 Inspecting some flowers

Inspecting some flowers

While Elsa is the person to go to for any plant question Gill Condy is a trained botanical artist and gives tips and direction on how to improve your drawing skills. Both ladies are talented at water colour painting and it was a treat to learn some tips on how to use this medium for the first time.

 Absorbed in our drawings

Absorbed in our drawings

Our nature journals were all very different and we had the freedom to make them into whatever we liked. It was interesting to see how each person took a slightly different angle and approach to the same subject and how everyone was drawn to different plant types.

 Bridge in the Forest

Bridge in the Forest

 Drawing in the Forest

Drawing in the Forest

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon not quite sure what to expect, and left on Sunday feeling inspired and rejuvenated. The fresh air combined with soul-inspiring walks through unspoilt nature, not to mention being fed and pampered (some even went for massages at the onsite Spa) made for a most amazing and memorable trip. Thanks to everyone for making it so special!

 Such a treat to share this time with my dearest Mom!

Such a treat to share this time with my dearest Mom!

De Hoop Nature Reserve

Earlier this year I visited beautiful De Hoop Nature Reserve. An information booklet can be bought at reception which details the activities, history, geography and wildlife found in the reserve. The Interpretive Marine Walk is a guided tour during low tide to discover the life of sea creatures in the intertidal zone and is highly recommended (see images below). 

De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to more than 260 bird species as well as mammals such as the bontebok, Cape Zebra, smaller predators and various bat species. The De Hoop Vlei is a Ramsar site of international importance where aquatic birds and other organisms breed and feed without disturbance. The De Hoop Marine Reserve is also one of the world's most important calving grounds for the Southern Right Whale.

There is a wide range of eco-tourist activities available from bird-watching, game-viewing and hiking to photography and mountain-biking. 

Sprout visits De Hoop Nature Reserve
Sprout visits De Hoop
Sprout visits De Hoop
Sprout visits De Hoop
  Interpretive Marine Walk - guide gives insights into the lives of star fish and sea urchins

 Interpretive Marine Walk - guide gives insights into the lives of star fish and sea urchins

 Sea urchins sheltering from the sun by putting shells onto themselves

Sea urchins sheltering from the sun by putting shells onto themselves

 Low Tide reveals a whole new world

Low Tide reveals a whole new world

 Muscle Power!

Muscle Power!

Sprout visits De Hoop Nature Reserve
 Fynbos - unique vegetation synonymous with the southern tip of Africa

Fynbos - unique vegetation synonymous with the southern tip of Africa

Sprout visits De Hoop Nature Reserve
 There are several accommodation options - we stayed in Opstal Vlei Cottages which are self-catering.

There are several accommodation options - we stayed in Opstal Vlei Cottages which are self-catering.

 Sunset over the Vlei

Sunset over the Vlei