18 Feb 2017

Winter Dormancy

The first Landscape Learn event took place on the 18th of February. We were joined by around 40 enthusiastic attendees, keen to learn more about the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve and to explore alternative methods for redefining urban landscapes, city ecology, art, history and the productive value of medicinal plants and fire. If you would like to kept informed of future Landscape Learn events please sign up to our newsletter or view the events page for our next event Spring Soils.

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 All images © Eve Izaak

Gathered round the campfire, Johanna Gibbons set the scene for the morning of talks and explorations.

Introducing the theme of Dormancy, Johanna described the period in an organism’s life cycle when growth, development, and physical activity are temporarily stopped. The beginning of a process that minimises metabolic activity and therefore helps conserve energy… a mechanism to prevent germination during unsuitable ecological conditions, when the probability of seedling survival is low. The breaking of dormancy first seen through exuberant growth marks the onset of spring and the changing of the seasons.


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We were delighted to be joined by Michael Smythe who introduced Phytology, the artist & community-led project based at the Nature Reserve, which explores the use, value, resilience, and function of wildness within urban ecosystems through alternative methods of stewardship, centered around a medicinal field.

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Neil Davidson provided landscape context by summarizing the physical, political and cultural evolution of the Nature Reserve within London over the preceding 400 years, with demographics, land use, stewardship, language and the expanding city all key influencers of the space today.

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Rosie Whicheloe and Matt Pendry of the Ecology Consultancy, expertly guided a walk through the reserve highlighting the emergent plant life and diversity of habitats often hiding in plain sight.

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Returning to the campfire, Finn Thomson a London based artist discussed his Royal College of Art graduation project, which included various sculptural pieces, which included fire grenades, fire insurance plaques and fire dummies that explored the use, value and emotions associated with fire. 

The talks were concluded by Roy Crielaard, from Arup who provided a fascinating insight into his research of the fire behaviour of mass timber structures using the campfire as a compelling visual aid.

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The morning ended with an opportunity to informally continue discussions over a lunch of baked potatoes, warmed in the fire, and tea harvested from the medicinal meadow.