I've seen a lot of parks in a lot of cities around the world and Central Park in New York has been my favourite for some time now.
HOWEVER, I definitely was not prepared for what I saw here in Madrid yesterday. It's a park called Bueno Retiro Park. It had all the usual magnificent formal layout and structures associated with grand parks but that wasn't what grabbed me.
It was the tree planting.
Man, they plant CLOSE!
Most were at just 8m spacings and frequently even less. And I'm talking big trees too. The effect was a lacy canopy over (virtually) the entire park. Check out this aerial to see what I mean (zoom in using the slider on the right).
In Perth we worry about how much leaf litter this is going to deposit on the turf. They don't here. They just mow it and leave it. The leaves break down quickly and just feed the soil. They don't obsess over having pristine turf all year round. They accept that it ebbs and flows with the seasons. And you don't give two hoots because the tree effect is just so breathtaking. That's the big lesson, Perth. When your trees are right no-one cares about patchy turf or dodgy paving or whatever. It all seems rather secondary. And that's because IT IS!!
Here's something the Parks industry in Perth needs to do: it needs to sponsor its members to travel to these places and see these things in the flesh. No amount of pictures or someone telling you about it can prepare you for what it's actually like. Once you've seen it you will understand. You will realise that all the things we worry about when it comes to big trees are straw men. In reality it's not an issue. These cultures have been doing this for millennia and it's just fine. They live with the inconveniences and take the benefits.
Truly leafy parks are just a joy. Especially in hot places like here in Madrid or dear old Perth. And the people here vote with their feet. On the weekend the place was pumping. Everyone was out there enjoying it. That just 'aint gonna happen if your park is hot and exposed!
This is all pretty basic Parks Design 101 but we're still not getting it right in Perth. Come travel guys. Get your industry to pay for you to travel. It will open your eyes and you will never see things the same way again.
It's often said that the Spanish should have settled Australia. When you see parks like this you have to agree. They get it - ie how to live well in a hot climate. Blame the Poms, I say. I love going to England and I love the English people but they have NO idea when it comes to living in hot places.
I'll take a Bex and have a nice lie down now...