(Thursday 21 January 2016 )
Behind railings and ornate ironwork gates off the bustle of Paternoster Row, a few paces from the route of the ancient Watling street, just over 1.5 acres of gardens wrap around the end of St Paul’s Cathedral. Overgrown beds of shrubs and mature planes, limes and walnut trees border a series of informal lawns. Laid stone slabs in earthy grass in the damp cathedral shadow on the north side feels something like an old country graveyard. But tall old plane trees and pines frame the surrounding glass and concrete office blocks of Paternoster and lead the eye up to a gleaming gold St. Paul standing high on his column.
The churchyard was opened as a public garden in the 1880s. Office workers lunch and chat on benches skirting the cathedral’s east end. Skateboarders and rucksacked tourists pass by in the winter sunshine. Excited playtime shrieks from St Paul’s schoolyard just below St Augustine’s Tower. A weeping pear tree leans towards the curved stonework. It seems to glow purple from inside its complexity of tortured winter twigs while uppermost branches glitter in the sunlight.
I draw the tree through a bed of fiery dogwood stems against a dark yew, a translucent plastic safety sheet covering a new office block build across Cannon St and und
erlined by the dark park railings. Squirrels scuttle close to my feet and eye my bright paintbox while a pied wagtail shivers close by. Drawing finished (see image at top), I leave into a sharply cold wind through the bright south garden, past rose beds and Bainbridge Copnall‘s sharp- chinned Beckett sprawling back across the grass.
In his ‘Sticks in the Smoke’ project, Nick Andrew has been regularly visiting, researching and drawing different publicly accessible parks or gardens in London since January 2016, exploring the theme of city green spaces from the perspective of a rural landscape painter. The first two sketchbooks will be published as a book in late 2018. www.nickandrew.co.uk . Nick is grateful to London Parks & Gardens Trust for their support www.londongardenstrust.org.