Tuesday, July 26th 2016
We started today’s outing at St Pancras Station where we went in search of breakfast. We found this on the terrace of Carluccio’s restaurant, a vantage point from which we had a good view of the latest artwork to occupy the site known as the Terrace Wires. This is a large, highly reflective metal object bearing what I think is the somewhat awkward name, Thought of Train of Thought. By Rob Arad, it has the important feature that it rotates about its horizontal axis, something that cannot be shown in still photos. The video on this page contains sequences showing the object rotating. It is certainly an eye-catching object though it keeps reminding me of a fish with the head and tail cut off.
After breakfast we set off for our main destination, a famous and beautiful park in a Royal London borough.
Holland Park lies within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and its history goes back to the early 17th century when Sir Walter Cope, who owned the four manors of Kensington, built a grand house that was called Cope’s Castle. House and grounds later came into the possession of the 1st Earl of Holland and his descendants and accordingly took the Holland name.
When the owners sold off parts of the grounds for house building, the name ‘Holland Park’ expanded to include the whole neighbourhood, as it still does today when it is regarded as a desirable residential area for those who can afford to live there.
During WWII, the house was bombed and left in a ruinous condition. In 1952 the London County Council bought the estate from the then owner, the Earl of Ilchester, and turned it into a public park. Enough of the original buildings remain to provide amenities such as the Holland Park Theatre, home of the Opera Holland Park, the Belvedere Restaurant, an art gallery and the Orangery, a venue for events and functions. Parts of the grounds are set aside for football, cricket and tennis. For many visitors, including ourselves, the park is mainly a beautiful environment in which to stroll, admire the scenery and perhaps take tea in the park cafe.
We took a bus to the Kensington High Street entrance of Holland Park where this fine gate stands. We, the public, do not enter by the gate, of course, but sneak in through the smaller doorways on either side.
We first went to the park cafe for a cup of tea. This is the only park cafe I know that has valuable works of art on display. This one, by Jacob Epstein, is known as the Sun Worshipper, though the sculptor himself never gave it a name. It was made around 1910, probably as part of a joint project with sculptor Eric Gill to create a temple in the latter’s garden, a project that failed for lack of money.
Also in the cafe is a companion piece by Eric Gill, called The Maid, also intended for the temple. (This photo was in fact taken on a previous visit to Holland Park – see Breakfast, then a walk in the park.)
There are also sculptures in the grounds of the park. This one, by John Macallen Swan (1846-1910), is entitled Boy with Bear Cubs and bears the inscription ‘LENT BY THE TRUSTEES OF THE TATE GALLERY’. It is not known when it was made but it was first exhibited in 1902.
Within the grounds there are formal gardens and more natural areas. This enclosed space with its geometrical flower beds providing a blaze of colour is known both as The Formal Garden and The Dutch Garden. In the midst is a sculpture of Milo of Croton, the legendary strong man who came to an unfortunate end as a result of trying his strength on an oak tree. I didn’t photograph him this time but you will find a picture and the story at the end of Breakfast, then a walk in the park. (Sculptor unknown.)
The building, decorated with a colonnade is now known as the Belvedere and houses a restaurant of the same name. In the 17th century, this would have been the stables but in the 19th it was converted into the Summer Ballroom. One can now only imagine the glittering events of which it would then have been the elegant venue.
This curious, if intriguing, piece of art is by Andrew Burton and is entitled Annunciation. It is made of bronze and pieces of African granite and is therefore very heavy. Setting it up must have been quite challenging. It was unveiled in 2004.
I have to say that the works of Sean Henry are more to my taste. While the Romans coloured their sculptures of famous persons, it is still fairly unusual for sculptures to be painted. Sean Henry colours his sculptured figures which then seem all the more lifelike. He portrays them in natural poses and it is the locations of the finished works that often gives them a sense of drama. The Walking Man walks, as though absorbed in thought, through the park. You can stand beside him, walk around him – even touch him – and observe him as closely as you wish. Though of ‘ordinary’ people with no pretensions of grandeur, Henry’s figures give you a sense of presence so that you half-expect the figure suddenly to break pose and walk away.
In the centre of the park is the Kyoto Garden with its lake and water fall. To quote the information panel:
The Kyoto Garden was constructed as part of the Japan Festival 1991 on the occasion of the centenary of the Japan Society in Britain. It was built by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry with the help of many Gardening Companies in Kyoto and was presented to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as a gift to commemorate the long lasting friendship between Great Britain and Japan.
The waterfall feeds the lake but of course also has aesthetic and symbolic meaning:
The three-step waterfall symbolizes steep mountains and deep gorges, while the pond depicts a vast ocean view. In this way, the entire garden represents, in condensed form, the grandeur of natural landscape.
There are paths through the garden with a bridge over part of the pond, with lanterns and other decorative elements. The number of people present showed how attractive the garden is.
Not the least interesting feature was the large number of Koi carp in the pond. They were attracted to the people as much as the people were attracted to them and it was hard to get close enough to the water to take this photo.
The fish were unexpectedly large for such a relatively small pond. This individual in the above photo was over a foot (30 cm) long. Each had a different pattern and combination of colours. Koi were originally bred in Japan (koi is Japanese for ‘carp’) to add colour and decoration to garden ponds and lakes. These were certainly very striking and pretty.
The park is full of wildlife, including squirrels and birds of every kind, making it a wildlife oasis and refuge in the midst of a built-up area.
It also has its own fauna which include an avian species that has long been a favourite in the grounds of great houses, the peacock. These peafowl seemed quite comfortable with the crowds of admirers. The cock, with his resplendent blue robe was taking his ease and watching the passers-by like a monarch holding court. The hens nearby were grazing and were less concerned with the people. After all, this was their domain and would remain so when the human visitors had all departed.