Category Archives: Environment

Planting Neal’s Yard – a slideshow

If you’ve ever admired the bright oil drums filled with trees and plants that bring colour and life to Neal’s Yard, take a look at the hard work that goes into keeping them healthy! Watch a slideshow of how we repot a tree.

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West End Extra reports on flue dispute

Battle to save ‘delicate ecosystem’ of Neal’s Yard

Row over restaurant’s ‘Cape Canaveral’ flue

06 April, 2018 — By William McLennan

A flue that has been compared to the Apollo 13 spacecraft 

RESIDENTS in a historic Covent Garden courtyard have said their “oasis of peace” has been overrun with restaurants.

Neighbours in Neal’s Yard have objected to the arrival of any new eateries and asked the council to intervene and protect the area’s unique atmosphere. All but one of the plaza’s shops have been replaced with cafés, bars and restaurants over the past three years, the Covent Garden Community Association said.

The area gives its name to Neal’s Yard Remedies, an up-market health and beauty company, which is the only retailer to remain a presence. Employees said that they have been forced to end therapy sessions early, after customers felt nauseas from the smell of cooking meat.

Responding to the latest planning objection to turn one of the retail units permanently into a restaurant, Mark Wordsworth wrote: “This may seem an odd analogy but Neal’s Yard is like a coral reef – it’s a very delicate ecosystem and to preserve it it needs to be kept in balance. If the reef dies then it can’t be recreated – it’s gone forever. And like all dead reefs there are no tourists or visitors and everyone loses out including the landlords and all their tenants.”

Residents focused their objections on landlords Shaftesbury Estates, calling on them to manage the mix of homes, restaurants and shops in the area.


One neighbour, complaining about an extractor fan flue that had been installed to accommodate one restaurant, told Camden Council: “Here on Planet Shaftesbury Estate, we are still trying to come to terms with the almost overnight appearance of the massive silver flue aka – Apollo 13 and which appeared out of the blue (like Dr Who’s Tardis) and now looms over us like something that wouldn’t be out of place at Cape Canaveral, just waiting menacingly quiet, for someone to light the blue touch paper and stand well back, before it hurtles off into space, to conquer hidden planets and thereby establish new communities for Shaftesbury Estates.”

Paul Hope said the area has “rapidly become a loud and busy restaurant zone” eroding the reason that people “love the yard and flock there”.

Axelle Bonaparte said: “Neal’s Yard has been here for years adding an oasis of peace and quiet in the area, and this is fading away. Can we have some corners of calmness in this city and not use every square metre for frenzy?”

Amanda Rigby, of the Covent Garden Community Association, asked Camden Council to engage in a “holistic, strategic discussion about how the place that is Neal’s Yard should be allowed to evolve”.

Brian Bickell, chief executive officer Shaftesbury plc, said the company was committed to maintaining Neal’s Yard’s vibrancy and communal spirit, adding: “It has a long history as a shared and mixed-use space – from Neal’s Yard Remedies for health and wellbeing through to the cheese shop of Neal’s Yard Dairy, and the small independent cafés and restaurants which together contribute to this extraordinary oasis in the West End.”


Planting Neal’s Yard’s trees

As everyone who has been to Neal’s Yard knows, one of the delights of this special place is its greenery and nature – right in the heart of Covent Garden. The trees and plants in their brightly coloured tubs are loved by all but they also need love and care and attention to stay healthy and strong.

As part of the Neal’s Yard Community Days, the Neal’s Yard community worked together early one autumn morning to replant one of the trees – which turned out to be quite a task!


How come – a field of buttercups!

Buttercups in Neal\'s Yard

I was walking in the city bemoaning my fate of having to work on such a lovely spring day. Really, it should not be so. The Japanese have special holidays to look at the cherry blossoms. Now that is what I call civilised. In fact I must look up those haiku poems tonight. They are so inspired. Why don’t we have holidays to go to the bluebell woods, en masse, in awe, going oohhh and ahhh… Would that not do a lot to lift the heart of the nation! To bring the spirit of nature and a touch of wildness into our lives.

And so I was ranting on in my mind on my way to get a Tesco sandwich when I bumped into an old friend. Had not seen her for years, totally lost touch. Surprise halted us in our step. A quick checking out, a hope of recognition and then a broad smile, a hug and a simultaneous “How are you? What are you doing here?”

”I work here,” I said.

“I live just around the corner,” she said.

“Really? I didn’t know people lived here.”

“Have you got time, would you like to come up for a drink?”

“I have to be quick,” I replied, “it’s only my lunch-break, but yes I’d love a cup of tea.”

We went up, and up and then further up, on the roof. I gasped! How come! A field of buttercups!. Basho inspiration flooded me. I stepped out and danced between the buttercups.

waves of wonder moving
buttercups by the hundreds
on this tiny roof

How did they get there? Where did they come from? What useless questions. How delightful to be here in the middle of a yellow dream, a lunch-break holiday in nature wonderland in the middle of the city.

Covent Garden looks done for

On Thursday April 1, the Guardian published a poignant article with this title and unfortunately it was not a joke! In it, Michele Hanson talks about the rebranding of Covent Garden, where the future vision is one of a big posh department store without a roof to replace the quirky street performers and often outstanding opera singers and classical musicians that entertain and surprise us at present.

Away goes all that is unpredictable, creative and out of the ordinary, in with the big brand names, the elite products and marketing strategies! And, so the argument goes, this will bring the piazza back to the Londoners rather than provide for the tourists. . . Really? Are CapCo, who are the ‘brains’ behind this, seriously thinking that we who live in London will spend our time on an overcrowded underground to travel to the piazza to buy from more posh shops which are easier to access elsewhere anyway? Why is Covent Garden special? Write your comments on what makes it special for you. Read the full article

Guess the flower to win a prize

The honeydrums (yes that is what they are, not oildrums . . .see the history page for more info) have been painted and look all fresh again. Yellow, green blue and red, the brightest colours you’ve ever met! To celebrate we have put some new plants in the soil to provide more covering. The plants will hopefully in time spread their greenery all around and provide us with pretty flowers. Have you spotted them yet? Their name starts with a ‘P’. . . and the first person who can email us with the right (common) name will receive a half price main course meal at the World Food Cafe.