London 2012 legacy buzzing

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A golden meadow of wild flowers buzzing with bees and butterflies is already blooming around the Olympic Stadium, two years before the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The riverbank meadow of cornflowers, marigolds, Californian poppies and prairie flowers has been especially designed and sown to flower gold just in time for the Opening Ceremony. It is the first of over 10 football fields worth of nectar–rich wild–flower meadows in the Olympic Park, which will provide a colorful setting for the Games and be havens for wildlife for years to come. International wild–flower experts from the University of Sheffield have designed a range of late flowering annual and perennial meadows for the Olympic Park using a diverse mix of colourful plants. They will be sown later in the planting season and cut back to ensure they are in bloom throughout the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Olympic Delivery Authority chief executive David Higgins said: " The wild flower meadows, wetlands, woods and lawns in the Olympic Park will provide a green and colourful setting in 2012 and a new great park for people and wildlife after the Games. With two years until the Games, the parklands are already taking shape and the site is going from brown to green with meadows blooming, hundreds of trees and thousands of wetland plants being planted. We are doing everything possible to ensure this is a great park for Games and legacy and a showcase for British park design. " Nigel Dunnett of the University of Sheffield said: " The Olympic Park meadows have been carefully formulated to flower at their peak during the Games, producing exciting, vibrant sheets of uplifting colour, with high biodiversity value. To achieve this peak performance, with a beautiful blend of colours at exactly the right time is no mean feat, and is based on many years of research and practical experience at the University of Sheffield. We are extremely encouraged and excited by the results from the sowings this year. " Work is well underway to create around 250 acres of new parklands, on former industrial land, that will provide a colourful and festival atmosphere for the London 2012 Games and afterwards become the largest new urban park in the UK for over a century. Over 500 trees and thousands of wetland plants have been planted and meadows sown around the Olympic Stadium. Olympic Park meadowsMore than 10 hectares of annual and perennial meadows are being created in the Olympic Park, designed and sown to flower during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The annual meadows around the Olympic Stadium are a vivid combination of tickseed, cornflower, corn marigold, star of the veldt from South Africa, Californian poppy and plains coreopsis, which moves from yellow and blue in July to gold in August. The meadows, which are sown on an annual basis, are being trialed this year and next year to perfect the team's extensively researched technique of irrigation, late sowing and cutting back that will ensure the flowers peak for the Opening Ceremony in 2012. A combination of shorter and taller perennial meadows, which require only a single seeding, are being sown across the Olympic Park , mainly in the north of the parklands, to allow plenty of time for them to establish before the Games. The shorter meadows on drier sunny slopes are a colourful mix of thyme, calamint, oringanum, vipers bugloss and wild carrot. The taller meadows on shadier slopes include musk mallow, meadow cranesbill, devils bit scabious, red clover, bloody cranesbill and great burnet. The meadows have been designed to be nectar– and pollen–rich, diverse, with a long flowering season to encourage a range of bees, butterflies, birds, moths and other insects. Specific plants and flower species have been selected to encourage particular wildlife, for example the marsh fritillary butterfly need devils bit scabious for its caterpillars and burnet moths congregate around knapweed flowers. The meadows are being sown in especially designed low–nutrient soil, with a high sand content, to ensure a diverse mix of flowers and to discourage weeds. After the Games the meadows will gradually incorporate a range of grasses, naturally and through oversowing, so they become self–sustaining and support particular butterfly larvae such as meadow brown. ODA project sponsor for parklands and public realm John Hopkins said: " Most gardens and flowering plants are past their best in late July and August. These trials show that the challenge of creating colourful and vibrant displays for the Games will be met in an innovative and cost effective way. It is another example of world–leading design and plantsmanship. " Further features of the Olympic Park green space for people and wildlife during and after the Games include:4, 000 new 4–7 metre semi–mature trees, with over 500 trees grown in Hampshire already planted including ash, cherry, hazel, white willow, crack willow, alder, aspen, black poplar, Holm oak, English oak, rowan, lime, field maple, sweet gum and silver birch. The trees will provide shelter from wind and sunshine across the Park. Willow, poplar and alder will be planted in river areas to withstand flooding and species vulnerable to climate change have been avoided. Wetland bowls and rare wet woodlands in the north of the Park create habitat and help manage floodwater, protecting new housing and venues and 5, 000 existing properties from a 1:100 year storm. The first of 300, 000 wetland plants, grown in Norfolk and Wales, have already been planted as part of the UK's largest ever urban river and wetland planting. Over 30 species of native reeds, rushes, grasses, sedges, wet wildflowers and irises have been grown initially on the Gower peninsular in Wales, with around a third grown from cuttings and seeds collected from the Olympic Park before construction started. The plants have been grown–on in coir mats sunk in waterbeds in Thetford and are now being transported and planted on the Olympic Park riverbanks. Rainwater captured through porous paving will be cleaned through a network of swales, ponds and reedbeds before flowing into the river. The London 2012 Garden stretching for half a mile on the Waterworks riverbank between the Aquatics Centre and Olympic Stadium and celebrating centuries of British passion for gardens and plants. It will include picnic lawns, seating, 60, 000 plants and 60, 000 bulbs from 250 different species. A riverside Royal Horticultural Society Great British Garden overlooking the Olympic Stadium, which two amateur gardeners, Rachel Read and Hannah Clegg, have helped to design after their competition entries won a public vote. New habitats for species including: otter, kingfisher, grey heron, bee, house sparrow, bat, song thrush, starling, toadflax brocade moth, lizard, black redstart, flower and fungus beetle, frogs, newts and toads, eel, water vole, slow worm, grass snake, linnet, sand martin, swift, and invertebrates. Feature planting designed by the Klassnik Corporation, We Made That and Riitta Ikonen – an art collective based in the Host Boroughs–and the University of Sheffield to represent the industrial heritage of the Olympic Park site. 250 benches and more than 3, 300 seats built into the parklands so that people are never more than 50m walk from a seat. Webcams enable people to watch the park taking shape first–hand Further legacy features of the Olympic Park green space include:The southern part of the Park will focus on retaining the Games spirit, with riverside gardens and areas for markets, events, cafes and bars in legacy. The northern area of the Park will use the latest green techniques to manage flood and rainwater while providing quieter public space and habitats for hundreds of existing and rare species from kingfishers to otters. Park hubs with play areas. A 6m–wide, one mile road cycle circuit built into the parklands around the Velodrome and crossing the River Lea, with lighting for year round and evening use but low level UV values to protect bats. Also 6km of off–road mountain bike tracks and a network of cycle paths across the Park including National Cycle Network Route 1. A large oval lawn with an amphitheatre setting in the north of the Park suitable for games, picnics and other leisure activities. Four football fields (2. 1 hectares) worth of secure and accessible allotments. 5km of restored and accessible previously neglected rivers, including the original Carpenters Lock restored in a riverside bowl in the centre of the Park, connecting the northern and southern areas. Mounds and hills across the Park for tumbling in summer and sledging in winter. Temporary tree–lined daffodil, bluebell, clover and primrose meadows that vary through the seasons created on the development land on the northern entrance to the Park that may not be developed for many years. Rather than traditional construction hoarding which would deter people from using the Park, this unique use of parklands also reduces long–term security costs. Hanging gardens' thirty feet above ground on the huge footbridge from Stratford City with meadows, lawns, shrubs and rows of trees welcoming people over the main walking entrance into the Park. A tree–lined 'park road' into the north of the Park modeled on The Mall and Birdcage Walk next to St James's and Hyde Park, with distinctively designed surfacing, lighting and bollards and traffic management so visitors feel like they are in the Park. A new regional sports club set in parklands with a tranquil garden square centred on the original Eton Manor Boys' Club war memorial and lined with Sweet Gum trees which turn red around Remembrance Day. Large concourse areas reduced in size in legacy and broken up with 'islands' of plants, trees and meadows. Parklands around the Aquatics Centre including planted hills with seating providing views across the river to the 2012 Gardens.

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