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Barbican and Beyond

In the City of London and just next to the financial district The Barbican is a concrete city within a city, with giant blocks of flats, enormous rectangles of buildings and regimented lines of windows and balconies. Even many of the gardens and water features have straight lines and right angles.

Around this modern complex are the ancient walls of the City. These walls, which once provided protection for its citizens, now shelter plants - without their benefice they would not survive.

The walls are greened with mosses and everywhere there is evidence of nature creeping around and pushing through - peep down the deep shafts and there are ferns sprouting up from the bottom; alongside the well trodden pavements there are delicate flowers.

Tiny flowers on the edge of the pavement

There is the sound of birdsong in the trees and some unexpected sights: a green wall that is a vertical garden, plants tumbling down from balconies and appearing on rooftops; they soften the harsh landscape. A community garden, creative and inspiring, has been squeezed into a piece of open land.

There are wooden planters where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. People may live high up, almost in the clouds but they come down to the ground to tend their crops.

Rhubarb growing in the city

And hidden away there is a secret - The Barbican Wildlife Garden which is enjoyed and managed by the people who live here. There are two ponds and hedges of mixed bushes, a wildflower meadow and woodland areas. With such a variety of habitats, over three hundred species of wildlife have been identified. It is not open to non resident humans but creatures who live in the rural spots in Central London find their way here.

A secret garden

On nearby Golden Lane Estate, where residents live in giant blocks of flats, there is a secret corner where fruit and vegetables and herbs are grown. They look as healthy and happy as they would in any English country garden.

Golden sweetcorn

Golden tomatoes

Barber-Surgeons Hall Gardens, just close by, continues a centuries' old tradition of growing medicinal herbs. It is tucked away by one of the old city walls and not far from where the barbers who once attended the monks became apothecaries.

The species that are grown here are still used for both herbal and pharmaceutical medicines

Herbs still grown after centuries of cultivation

Postman's Park, once the site of three churches, has old walls that create an environment where Camelias is grow happily as well as exotic plants which thrive here.

Camelias blossom all year round

Brick walls shelter plants

Even a Banana Tree can bear fruit here.

Tiny bananas grow

A Handkerchief Tree can be seen flowering in May - so called because its white leaves appear as handkerchiefs hanging from the tree. It is very rare: there are a few in London - another can be found at Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath.

Handkerchief Tree in late Summer

Even in the most busy and built up areas of the centre of the city we can discover flora and fauna, hidden away so every corner has to be found.

North London and Central London map

Barbican Underground Station


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