Behind the art gallery: edible wood wanderings

View of Minster over bowling green

Through a Marygate gate: looking towards the Minster over the Exhibition bowling green, 21 Dec 2010

Once upon a time, a long time ago … well, seven years ago, or more precisely, seven years and two months ago, 21 December 2010, I walked through an open gate on Marygate, and took the photo above, looking across a bowling green and car parking area, on land behind the art gallery and King’s Manor, towards the Minster.

This week, 21 February 2018, I walked through the same gate in the old abbey walls along Marygate, and again pointed my camera towards the Minster, across land much changed in the intervening years.

View towards Minster over the edible wood

Through a Marygate gate: looking towards the Minster over the edible wood, 21 Feb 2018

So much has changed, here and everywhere, hasn’t it, in that time, in all those years. But let’s not think about the big ponderous things, let’s have a look at this small piece of land and wander across it, taking in some pleasing details, and with a few more ‘then and now views’ I’ve collected over the years. (There’s also a Google map to clarify where it is, if you’re not sure.)

So here’s another comparison, again many years apart. In January 2011, again from just inside the Marygate access gate, but this time looking to the right rather than the left.

Across the bowling green, from the Marygate entrance, 17 Jan 2011

Across the bowling green, from the Marygate entrance, 17 Jan 2011

We’re looking towards the corner where this piece of land and its bowling green met the boundary with the Museum Gardens and King’s Manor. Tempest Anderson Hall is visible on the far right.

And now, in early 2018:

To the edible wood, from the Marygate entrance, 21 Feb 2018

To the edible wood, from the Marygate entrance, 21 Feb 2018

Now with an archway encouraging us in, through a beech hedge retained from when it bordered the bowling green. It’s now shaped in a more curving fashion and forms a boundary on two sides of an ‘edible wood’, planted in recent years. It’s an extension to the Museum Gardens, and links it to the art gallery, as you can walk through now from the side of the gallery, through the edible wood, and into the north-western corner of the Museum Gardens.

I’ve not really connected to this place since it was refashioned, and have only rarely wandered through, most recently when taking the photos a couple of months back for the piece about the festive attraction. I realised I should probably make more of an effort to get over my disconnection and lack of enthusiasm, so went back again this week to see if I could.

Clearly, there’s not a huge amount to see in any garden area in late winter, before spring growth and summer exuberance and autumn bountifulness. On the other hand, many of my visits here all those years back were in the winter months, so it makes sense to revisit again in the winter. In winter you can see the structure of it, the lie of the land.

Though this land has been planted as an edible wood, a sign at the entrance asks visitors to try not to eat bits of it.

Please don't eat the edible wood

Please don’t eat the edible wood

This may be some kind of legal thing to cover YMT if visitors injure/poison themselves inadvertently, or it might be because in previous years they ended up with invisible edibles after too many curious/hungry nibblers visited.

Around curved wide paths are planted various herbs, trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials, many of them unusual and interesting, or things we perhaps didn’t realise we can eat. I know however from my own experience of gardening and also foraging a bit in recent years that ‘edible’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘nice’.

Edible wood, 21 Feb 2018

Edible wood, 21 Feb 2018

Among the muted greens and browns and the faded purples of sage plants were a couple of  yellow ceramic tree trunks, parts of an outdoor installation originally placed on the grassed area immediately behind the gallery. Here they strike a rather jarring note, perhaps that’s deliberate.

A ceramic tree trunk painted bright yellow, stuck in a garden in winter

A ceramic tree trunk painted bright yellow, stuck in a garden in winter (21 Feb 2018)

The jarring note was soothed away by the beautifully formed notes sung by this handsome little feathered visitor, as I wandered through.

Robin on sage plants, edible wood, 21 Feb 2018

Robin on sage plants, edible wood, 21 Feb 2018

There’s a bench here too, in memory of Katie Rough. Katie ‘loved feeding the squirrels and birds’.

Katie Rough memorial bench, 21 Feb 2018

Katie Rough memorial bench, 21 Feb 2018

Though it looks generally muted and winterish here, there are signs of spring growth, just emerging.

Signs of spring, 21 Feb 2018

Signs of spring, 21 Feb 2018

And at the back of the art gallery itself, as we head for the alleyway alongside it, this stunning bit of planting.

Impressive winter planting, behind the art gallery, 21 Feb 2018

Impressive winter planting, behind the art gallery, 21 Feb 2018

Pleasing vertical emphasis, and those vibrant dogwood stems. Splendidly handsome and cheering.

This sign on the corner as I left reminded me of something else I’ve been wanting to mention.

CCTV camera sign, by the art gallery, 21 Feb 2018

CCTV camera sign, by the art gallery, 21 Feb 2018

Not sure about the ‘personal safety’ part. Surely in this location it’s more about protecting property and monitoring behaviour. ‘Surveillance cameras in use’ would do.

The sign reminded me that I really should mention a current planning application for seven more surveillance cameras in the Museum Gardens. More details on this link. There appears to be a lack of interest in this, which seems odd to me, as several questions could/should be asked about this latest proposed addition to ‘our’ park. It’s not that long since YMT highlighted the cuts to their funding and gave this as justification for charging for entry to the art gallery, etc. Now there’s enough money available to pay for seven new cameras. Surely there’s a difference between a garden/park area and a city centre street. Surely a lot of people go to the Museum Gardens to try to get away from the stresses and cares, to be in a natural and therapeutic environment. Constant CCTV surveillance doesn’t seem to fit happily with this.

Perhaps they’ll all be trained on the ‘edible wood’, and the Press will start to carry photos of people caught on CCTV surreptitiously pocketing an artichoke.

Anyway, back to the plot … crossing the front of the art gallery I headed for the grounds of King’s Manor, to get a photo of the edible wood from the edge of the King’s Manor car park, following up on photos taken over the years (see below). But I must mention that on the way, just inside the railings, I noticed a wonderful scent. I realised it was a low hedge of sarcococca. It has a lovely scent at this time of the year from its small white flowers. If you’re in the area go have a sniff, and admire the view of the Minster too, and the buildings setting it off so well.

Scented sarcococca hedge, York Minster view, 21 Feb 2018

Scented sarcococca hedge, York Minster view, 21 Feb 2018

And so to another ‘then and now’ view. Here we’re on the other side of the site, looking back across to the Marygate gate, where we started this page.

Starting in 2013, with the bowling green:

View across the bowling green, later edible wood, 9 Feb 2013

View across the bowling green, later edible wood, 9 Feb 2013

Then a couple of years on, with the paths for the edible wood taking shape:

View across the former bowling green, edible wood development, 15 June 2015

View across the former bowling green, edible wood development, 15 June 2015

And now, in early 2018:

View across the edible wood, 21 Feb 2018

View across the edible wood, 21 Feb 2018

Always interesting to see how garden areas are designed, and how they develop. Good too to have more green areas open to the public. But I feel it needs to be kept in mind that a bowling green was closed to make this edible wood – ‘bowlers who previously used the area have been moved to alternative facilities’ (source (PDF)) – and that it was rather controversial at the time. I remember that well.

It was interesting to read, while compiling this page, comments by the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, in a summary of their objections to the 2014 planning application (14/02246/FUL) for the landscaping work, in this report (PDF). The Trust expressed concerns about many aspects, including the curving paths and the dominant service road alongside, and concluded that ‘the proposals should be rejected because they are wrong for this site’ stating that ‘the former bowling green is an attractive green space and should be left as such.’

The edible wood is rather young and new, but it did look like it was flourishing in the summer last year when I took a photo of it from the art gallery balcony during the open day. More of us can now enjoy the area than was the case before, and the edibles aspect is an interesting idea.

At one time this area around the Art Gallery, Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens, and the Theatre Royal was referred to as the Cultural Quarter, and maybe still is, though thankfully I don’t see the phrase so often these days. There’s culture everywhere, all kinds of it, this ‘quarter’ is just some of the posher stuff.

Here in the ‘cultural quarter’ a bowling green was turned into an edible wood. So many levels to this story, and connected to the area of grass alongside. A revisit to that was going to be part of this page, but it’s too complicated. Maybe another time.

Instead I’ll end the page with a reader’s comment on a Press story on the opening of the edible wood, on 13 May 2015. ‘York City Blues’ suggested:

The Edible Wood is a back up plan to the food banks and a cheaper alternative to shopping at Aldi or Lidl.

. . . . .

If you’ve enjoyed this wintertime wander, virtual coffees are always welcome, thank you. I’m continuing to add to this resident’s record of York and its changes as often as I can. As some of the photos above perhaps make clear, I’ve been doing this for some years now. And have just remembered a wintertime city centre wander from Feb 2009 which may be of interest. It’s one of the older pages, and has a slightly different format, so the ‘related posts’ below won’t show it.

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  By Lisa @YorkStories 22 February 2018 , , To link to this page's proper location please use the > permalink

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on www.yorkstories.co.uk. She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories

One comment

  1. Elizabeth Hardcastle

    Personally, I prefer the bowling green to the present landscaping. There was a big outcry when the bowling green by the Barbican was sacrificed (for a car park) many years ago.

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