‘Mixed Borders’ is a joint project by the Poetry School and the London Parks & Gardens Trust to place ‘poets in residence’ at a number of gardens during the Open Squares Weekend – 13/14 June 2015.

I liked the sound of this and opted into the project.  Some 17 spaces will be included, and all of us taking part attended a workshop day in April – where the project was described, gardens allocated, and various exercises undertaken.

As my space, I have been assigned St Dunstan-in-the-East, EC3.  This church, reckoned to be of pre-Conquest origin, had been rebuilt more than once, but was bombed during World War II.   Only the outer walls survive, together with its Wren tower.  The architect is said to have had great confidence in the strength and stability of this tower, and that seems to have been born out.

I hope to add further notes on my involvement with the project as it develops.

Tuesday 28 April.   Went for a preliminary look at the site.   It is tucked away between Eastcheap and Lower Thames Street.   The walls survive to full height, with the open stone tracery of the windows.  This makes the space at once open and enclosed.   There is plenty of ambient noise – traffic, building works – yet also a sense of seclusion, of detachment from all this.  There are half a dozen trees, one of them in blossom, a couple of palms; also a low-profile water feature, giving some focus.  Small areas of garden lie outside the walls, on the north and south sides.

It was lunchtime and there were some twenty people sitting in the April sun, sheltered from a chill breeze, eating rolls or boxed salads, checking phones, not many talking.

There appears to be a useable room at the foot of the tower, and a notice outside about the parish applying for a Faculty to make some alterations and change the use of this small indoor space.

Thursday 30 April.   Made contact with Louisa, from the City Corporation, who has some responsibility for the garden, and am meeting her there next week.

Later, at the Society of Genealogists, I found a copy of a speech, given in 1947 to the Friends of the City Churches, by the Revd. Arthur West, then Rector of St Dunstan’s.  He was taking issue with some new report and its ideas on how to make use of the sites of bombed churches like St Dunstan’s.  Offering his own solution, he says of such places –
“I would have them as ‘havens of rest’, beautifully kept with flowers and grass and trees; open spaces where aged citizens might ruminate pleasantly, workers take al fresco meals, and children fill their lungs with free air.”   I didn’t see any children, and may myself have been closest to ruminating elder, but otherwise that seems quite an accurate vision of how the space has come to be used, sixty years on.