Landscape Clarifications: The Sports Hall Roof Garden No Longer A Mystery, May 2016

landscape clarifications

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.

For a few weeks, the Sports Hall has been surrounded by scaffolding.
All month the Sports Hall has been shrouded by scaffolding.

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.

“Fear not, till Birnam wood/ Do come to Dunsinane”; and now a wood/Comes toward Dunsinane
‘“Fear not, till Birnam wood/ Do come to Dunsinane”; and now a wood/Comes toward Dunsinane’: Up here Mother Nature’s on the move

birnham wood 2Peter 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.”

On one side, trees have already encroached.
On one side, trees have already encroached.
On the other, Man prepares to paint over the green with grey. green
On the other, Man is making maintenance preparations to paint over the green with grey.

3 ManJoking apart, this is all necessary, of course.  From Giuseppe’s vantage point up on the scaffolding, the ravages of time are very clear.

Despite being Church High's newest structure, the signs of wear and tear on the Sports Hall are surprising.
Considering it’s Church High’s newest structure, the signs of wear and tear on the Sports Hall metalwork are surprising.

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.

One of the pillars supporting the roof at ground level (before) and reaching for the sky (after).
One of the supporting roof pillars at ground level (before) and reaching for the sky (after).

after 3

One of the striking brackets at the top of the pillars (before and after).
One of the striking architectural roof brackets at the top of the pillars (before and after).

after 1

The large metal girder under the windows (before and after).
The large metal girder at window level (before and after).

after 4

The large curved roof edge containing the gutters (before and after).
The large curved roof edging which conceals and contains the gutters (before and after).

after 5

And finally the roof gutters themselves (the before shot containing lots of moss and a sporting item).
And finally the large roof gutters themselves (the before shot containing lots of green moss and even a yellow ‘lesser-spotted’ tennis ball).

after 6And 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!

Lovely colours but these are just dead leaves.
Lovely colours but these are just dead leaves.
No, not bronze or copper ore, just rust.
No, not bronze or copper ore, just lots of rust.
Reeds are nice in ponds but not up here!
This looks like a riverbank not a rain gutter.
Again, I'm all for planting new trees, but way up here?
I’m all for planting new trees, but way up here?
And finally the full-grown roof garden!
Finally, the full-monty: almost a roof garden!

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.

Bramble or ball?  Which one would your money be on?
Bramble or ball? Which of these would your money be on?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *