Every picture tells a story, so the saying goes. Browsing through Giuseppe’s photos, this one spoke to me. It appears in a folder called ‘Landscape Clarifications’ and that made me smile. Yes it will be the ivy that appeals, also the trees and the greenness. But it’s more than that. It’s the way that Nature, left to her own devices on the far side of the tennis courts, has been silently re-claiming other structures.
Some stories begin with ‘Once upon a time’, others with one or two throw-away words. This post about the Church High Sports Hall roof garden (yes, you did read that right) is of the latter sort. When Peter got out of his pick-up truck just before I left on May 11th, I told him I’d been shown the roof garden and for a moment we were at cross-purposes. I meant the sedum roof: he meant the Sports Hall.
The relationship between Man and Nature is a complex story. I believe it’s somehow connected to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, but, as I’ve already said, I’m no scientist. In my day, you didn’t have to do three Sciences at GCE so I just took Biology. Physics is a mystery to me, but recently I heard the 2nd Law explained as a universal law of decay: the ultimate cause of why everything ultimately falls apart and disintegrates over time. This intrigued me. It’s something to do with warm things meeting cold things and the energy that is expended in the process. Vast sums of money and energy are spent trying to counteract the relentless effects of this process via maintenance, re-painting, etc. However, everything in Nature is obedient to unchanging laws. And if a metal structure is abandoned to the elements for two years, disorder will occur. Working on the New Build roof, the Wates team had been aware for a while, as in Macbeth’s fateful prophecy, that the trees really were on the move.
Peter had explained there were trees growing on the Sports Hall roof, which greatly appealed to my sense of mischief and misrule. However, it wasn’t until I saw Giuseppe’s site photos much later on that things were fully clarified. The age-old battle, Man vs Nature: “In the green corner, to your right, I introduce you to Mother Nature: in the orange corner, to your left, I introduce you to Man.”
Joking apart, this is all necessary, of course. From Giuseppe’s vantage point up on the scaffolding, the ravages of time are very clear.
Since pictures can speak louder than words, I’m resorting to a series of ‘before and after’ shots to show the beneficial effect of repair work on the Sports Hall’s external metal structure. In the process, you’ll see the familiar structure from some very unusual angles too.
And those deep roof gutters – they support a very large expanse of roof, don’t forget – really did need cleaning out. I happen to think Giuseppe’s photos of the accumulated natural debris are actually very beautiful, looking almost like biological specimen slides. However, these plants and minerals are clearly not ideal way up here!
These little problems have all been sorted out now and the Sports Hall exterior is looking gleaming bright. Still, there was a particular kind of beauty in the natural decay occurring up there which brings to my mind the opening of Philip Larkin’s wistful poem ‘Afternoons’:
‘Summer is fading:
The leaves fall in ones and twos
From trees bordering
The new recreation ground.’
The power of Nature at work is certainly a wonderful thing to behold and I’m clearly not alone in thinking this. There’s a fantastic website called ’30 Must See Breathtaking Places Reclaimed By Nature’ which I really would recommend you take a look at before you leave this post. Some of the photographs are truly amazing. If you know your ‘Star Trek’, you’ll know the Borg: in the face of Mother Nature ultimately “Resistance is futile!” But we still try our best.