Monday, 30 March 2009

Cambridge Street Concrete Garden

Andrea and Jan met up with Erlend & Hélène Clouston at their beautiful Cambridge Street home to hear about their battles to restore the area to its former glory.

Cambridge Street is bounded on one side by bustling Lothian Road and by Castle Terrace on the other and has spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle. Its other famous neighbour, the Usher Hall which is currently undergoing extensive refurbishment to the tune of £25 million.

One might imagine that in such a setting, a Georgian terrace might feature some formal gardens. Sadly, this is not the case. Numbers 5-7, owned by Edinburgh City Council, leased by the NHS and used as a day hospital, are giving the residential owners a bit of a headache. Over a cuppa, Hélène told us about her perennial fight against litter, mostly originating from the numerous takeaway establishments in Lothian Road.

(Any classically-educated passers-by will have a chuckle at Erlend's wry plaque about the nobility of picking up other people's fag ends.)

Fed up with the gardens being used as a public convenience and takeway food dump, CRAG (Cambridge St Residents Action Group) turned to Edinburgh World Heritage for help. They were awarded a grant of £23,970 under their Conservation Funding Programme to replace the missing spear-headed cast iron railings at the category B listed building. So far, so good, but the ‘gardens’ outside numbers 5 and 7 comprise a few concrete slabs and nothing else.

Paving slabs weren't a problem for the Cloustons in their own garden - they simply covered them with a layer of gravel and, with the addition of water features, planters and a couple of Philippe Starck ghost chairs, created a 'philosopher's garden'. Ideally, CRAG would like a similarly low-maintenance approach featuring box and lavender.

Various agencies and residents have indicated a willingness to undertake some gardening but after a year of talking, no action has been taken. The obvious stumbling block being the paving slabs which need to be removed.

We are hopeful that a solution is just around the corner.

If you want to be part of a prestigious planting party, let us know!

No comments:

Post a Comment