Monday, January 12, 2009

The Ecology Park Ponds - an introduction

An annotated map of the Ecology Park Ponds
(see a larger version on Flickr)

Today I'm going to introduce the Ecology Park Ponds. My aim is that the ponds should be the subject of an ongoing series of sketches, drawings and photographs (for a photo-diary) in 2009. This follows on both from my interest in working in a series which I looked at in 2008 and my involvement with the new Watermarks blog.

I posted last Monday about Working in a series - drawing and painting ponds and this is the follow up post which focuses on the ponds which are to be the subject of my series.

None of the places around the Ecology Park Pond appear to have names, but I need names in order to try and locate where things are. So I've drawn a map of the area I'm studying (see above) and given names to all the different areas. I suspect these might change over the course of the year as I see how the area develops through the different seasons.

Above you can see my map of the ponds in the Ecology Park

Where are the ponds?

A frozen Willow Pond from Bull Rush Platform
(8th January 2009)

from the Ecology Centre decking
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've marked the location of the Ecology Park on the map below (from the guide to rivers and canals in East London).

The ponds lie just south of Roman Road and to the west of Grove Road. The Regents Canal and associated tow-path form the western edge of the ponds and the Palm House public house and car park lie just to the south.

If you walk north along the tow-path you reach Victoria Park. The Regents Canal then proceeds west, through Hackney, Islington to Little Venice. If you walk south, the tow-path takes you down to Limehouse Basin and the River Thames. To the east (brown on the map below) is the Main Site of the 2012 Olympics Park.

Extract from the the Map of the Canals and Rivers of the East End and Docklands
annotated to show where the Ecology Park is

What is the Ecology Park

This bit is for contemporary art history buffs and those interested in green things and the environment.

Mile End Park: The Ecology Park is part of a Millenium Project development within Mile End Park. The latter is a 75-acre linear park which is 1.25 miles long which has been developed beside the Regents Canal over the course of the last 50 years as a green corridor linking the River Thames to parts of Inner London. South of the Ecology Park is the Arts Park.

North of the Ecology Park is the bit of Mile End Park where Rachel Whiteread's House was located - which won her the Turner Prize. This was a cast of the interior of a house which was to be demolished to help create the park. The cast was revealed when the exterior skin was demolished.

The Ecology Park: The Ecology Park was created using Millenium Funding. Here is an abbreviated extract from the Ecology Strategy for Mile End Park.
The Ecology Park is the focus for ecology and where good practice is demonstrated and explained
Ecology Strategy for Mile End Park
The East End’s canals and docks are home to an abundance of wildlife. From kingfishers to swans, bats and even seals, there is something for all wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy. Walking along the Hertford Union Canal next to Victoria Park, and the Regent’s Canal alongside Mile End Park, it is common to see kingfishers by day and bats at dawn and dusk. Bat boxes are provided alongside the canal to help provide a natural habitat for these shy creatures. Mile End Park is also home to The Ecology Park where you can see rare orchids, moths and spiders, water birds and increasing populations of dragon and damselflies.
Waterways of East London
What's in the Ecology Park?
The Ecology Park is overlooked by a glass fronted earth sheltered pavilion.......In front of the pavilion are three pools of water, which contain a rich diversity of water marginal plants and aquatic planting. Wooden bridges cross the water and board walks and appears to be linked even with the canal although this is in fact an optical illusion caused by clever design......The main body of water is to be found in the Ecology park, where in fact three areas of water are each linked, with water pumped between the three pools, powered from electricity produced by the wind turbine. The wind turbine is sited centrally in the Ecology Park.
Ecology Strategy for Mile End Park
Basically what look like three ponds are actually one. The ponds are crossed by bridges and surrounded by decks and seating areas. This makes it relatively easy to walk around the ponds and view them from different directions.

Where I sit to sketch the view across Moor Hen Pond
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Having done this exercise twice I decided that I'd prefer to take "a Monet perspective" rather undertake "a MacPherson exercise" for my landscape sketches and drawings.
  • In other words, I'd develop a series of drawings of the ponds as a whole from different perspectives rather than do the same view over and over again.
  • However I do intend to try and repeat the same view throughout the year. I aim for a drawing per month of the repeated view. I'm in two minds at the moment as to which that will be - and that might only be chosen after I've done two or three months.
Besides the water, there's a great deal of vegetation which I'm finding very attractive and the cast shadows are also proving to be very interesting.

Which pond is which?

Drawings previously posted
(left) Lily Pad Pond from Canal View Bridge - looking towards Tow Path Platform
(right) The Willows behind Dog Walker Bridge from the southern edge of Lily Pad pond

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

None of the parks or bridges have an official name. All the names on the map have been created by me for the purposes of identifying specific views - sketched, drawn or photographed - in and around the ponds.

Lily Pad Pond from the north west
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The ponds are:
  • Lily Pad Pond - closest to the canal (see right). This has waterlilies in the summer. This was the subject of the first drawing I did - from Canal View Bridge
  • Willow Pond - in the north east area - surrounded on two sides by willows at the end nearest Dog Walker Bridge
  • Moor Hen Pond is the pond I sketched first in The Ecology Park Pond in December - which had one bank of willows and Willow Bridge and rushes off to the right (as seen in this sketch/post 28th December 2008 (15:30) - Frozen Pond)
The bridges and decking are called:
  • Dog Walker Bridge inbetween Willow Pond and Lily Pad Pond
  • Canal View Bridge inbetween Moor Hen Pond and Lily Pad Pond
  • Willow Bridge inbetween Willow Pond and Moor Hen Pond
  • Heron Bridge in between Willow Bridge and the earth shelter at the rear
the reason for the name of Heron Bridge
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

  • Bull Rush Platform - the decking extending along the northern and eastern perimeter of the pond
  • Tow Path Platform - the decking next to the tow path which overlooks Lily Pad Pond
There are seats around and about the ponds - but in fewer places than I would like so I think I'm going to have to import a sketching chair for some of the vioews I'd like to sketch.

Photographs of the Ponds

You can see photographs of the Ecology Park Ponds in a new set which I've published on Flickr - see The Ecology Park Ponds.

I've decided that I will keep a photo diary of the ponds and will start to split up the photos into seasons and maybe months as the year progresses - otherwise I could have a very large set. One of the sets will be given up to vegetation found around the ponds - lots of texture and complex pattern marking!

I've walked around it four times now in different weather and different times of the day and it's quite remarkable how much the light varies at the same time of day on consecutive days and how much the light impacts on the way the pond looks at different times of day. It will also change very significantly as the winter vegetation gives way to spring and summer.

I've yet to label all the photos with their names as per the map but hope to do that that very soon.

I was also going to post my two latest drawings - but they're too big to scan and the lighting is absolutely abysmal today so you'll probably see these turning up in posts later in the week.

Here are today's complementary posts on related matters on Watermarks and my Travels with a Sketchbook blog.
Links to previous posts about the project:


  1. Thank you, Katherine! I think I shall try and Google Earth this for fun. BTW- when does sweater weather begin where you live?

  2. Stunning photograph of the frozen Willow Pond, Katherine. It would make a wonderful etching.

    I'm enchanted by your pond project. The map is wonderful, reminds me of Wind in the Willows for some reason. With all the beautiful associated art, photographs and research I'm wondering how long it will be before your Ecology Park Ponds has its own website. It's an inspiring project.

  3. Thanks Tina - By sweater weather, I think you mean warm enough not to need a coat?

    It's very rare to have a cold snap as long or as cold as this one we've had recently. Even when the rest of the UK is 'cold' the bit of London where I live (2 miles east of the Bank of England!) rarely gets below 2 or 3 degrees. Frosts are unusual. Snow is very unusual. Mind you, I'm guessing that's global warming for you..........

    The downside is we don't get much sun either these days. The last two summers have been gloomy and a wash-out. I was revelling in all the bright light we got with the cold snap.

    I guess sweater weather is round about April finishing round about September.

    But it's a sweater with an umbrella!

  4. Robyn - at the rate I'm going all the birds are going to have names! (I've got a new Flickr set for birds - which includes the heron - he needs a name) I used to love children's books when I was a child which started with a map and then moved on to a cast of characters.

    I hadn't thought about giving it its own website - but you've now got me thinking!

    I'd love to be able to do the vegetation around the ponds as an etching. In the absence of a printing press I think I might have a go at lino printing like Vivien and Jeanette.

    I did a new Flickr 'set' last night for what I'm calling Textures. I got a great deal of satisfaction out of creating it. It's made me realise just how many of my photographs are actually about compositions of interesting textures - and they're then absolutely brilliant when put together.

    I can see me having different sets for different colours next!

  5. Just looked at your Textures 'set' - the second last photograph of the fallen reeds under ice looks like embossing. Beautiful.

    I actually spent ages this morning looking at all your Ecology Park photographs and, apart from the photos being beautiful in their current form, I was very envious of all the wonderful drawing/painting reference material you have collected. I see you have already finished one of my favourites at the head of your most recent post. Gorgeous.

  6. Thanks Robyn.

    I'm actually finding this incredibly absorbing and don't feel the need right now to go anywhere else for material to draw.

    I think I'm actually beginning to understand why Monet painted 200+ versions of his pond and water lilies - and I'm still in January and the water lilies in Lily Pad Pond aren't even out yet!!!

    Incidentally, I found that ice on the Regent's Canal to be absolutely riveting. I'd have stayed there all day if it hadn't been so cold! I think what happened was that canal barges had moved up and down through the ice and broken it up - but it was too cold to melt. So as the temperature was below freezing the ice reformed and continued freezing. It was fascinating to see the way it "reached out" to the next piece.

  7. Katherine -
    A fascinating project that I will follow with great interest...isn't there a famous quote "and see the world in a grain of sand" or something like that?

    I see a lifetime in this pond for you. You are getting my own wheels turning. Thank you.



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