Five Years on – a review of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

by Ruth Holmes

Since the 2012 Games, five years ago, the Park continues to perform its ecological, active and recreational functions. It is the setting for five major legacy venues (London Stadium, London Aquatics Centre, Copper Box Arena, Lee Valley VeloPark and Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.) and the ArcelorMittal Orbit as well as being a landscape that is enjoyed by millions of visitors.

After the games the Park was transformed; temporary venues were removed to be replaced by play areas, perennial planting, trees and cafes. Some areas are reserved for future development which will create the neighbourhoods planned as part of the legacy. These areas have been expertly wrapped with what we call the ‘stitch’ planting.


The ‘stitch planting’  is a temporary landscape which was designed by University of Sheffield Professors, and has proved so popular that many people will be sorry to see it go once the neighbourhoods are built (Stitching the Fringe).


The ‘stitch’ has provided colour and delight along stretches of hoarding requiring minimal maintenance and irrigation. The technical expertise that went into the soil production and planting mixes has meant that weeding is kept to a minimum and the colour, textures and ecological value have been appreciated. Local beekeepers have commented that the Park is such a rich resource for them and they appreciate the diversity of the plants for foraging.

Mimosa RWHolmes

From the spectacular spring colour of the Mimosa trees (Acacia dealbata)  – splashing bright yellow along the boulevard – to the late summer flowering purple Asters and acid yellow Kniphofia spp, the permanent horticultural areas designed for the Games continue to delight visitors. (Image: R. Holmes)

The planting was originally to be spectacular during the short period of the Games but has matured and some species have had more success than others. The density of planting and the species mix for the right conditions (soil and climate) have meant minimal maintenance but requires an expert eye to avoid areas being overtaken by more dominant species. The landscape maintenance contractor is passionate about the Park, and has invested great time and effort in gaining the skills and expertise to manage this landscape. Each year there is an annual review walkabout to assess the horticulture on site giving advice and considering options.

It is great to have the experts who made the Park what it is today to come back and monitor progress. We are very lucky to have this continued input.

Group 2017 RWHolmes

On the recent review, the focus in the north Park was looking at the species rich grasslands, swales,  and considering issues with slope maintenance (viz. desirelines and species loss). (Image: R. Holmes)

The landscape is performing well, but, with pressure from visitor use, desirelines have formed leading up to viewpoints, and grasslands have undergone species loss. Areas have suffered mollusc predation, whilst timing on cuts of other areas needs tweaking to maximise flora to support wildlife and displays for visitors. In the south Park, the 2012 Gardens and South Plaza show off innovative planting design that cannot be seen at this scale in other London parks. There are some patchy areas that could be filled with a green haze of ground cover, and some species have declined. We are considering the introduction of additional species to extend horticultural interest into winter. Like any high quality designed landscape there is a desire from the landscape management team to continually improve the horticulture and address issues. Landscape by its nature is dynamic and ever-changing; monitoring and observation is part of the process of understanding the conditions, accepting that things need to change, and working out the best way to enhance what is already there.

It will be exciting to see what the next few years will bring with the development on the Park estate, particularly how the quality of the existing landscape inspires and informs the landscape design.

Ruth Holmes

Landscape and Public Realm Sponsorship

Twitter @londonlegacy

London Legacy Development Corporation

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