Tam's Tales

- New Hope Gateway to Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden

Introducing Tam O' Ranter
This week sees the launch of a new column written by Tam o' Ranter (not his real name, of course.). When asked to write a few words about himself, Tam became shy and retiring (not like the Tam I know) but was eventually prevailed upon to write: "I am a pal of Scottie and have followed Rampant Scotland since its inception in 1996. At first I thought it was just a passing phase, but after the first ten years I realised that he actually was serious about this thing. Now that Scottie has established this enormous audience I think it is almost my duty to add my own point of view to this magnificent international Scottiephile readership. Of course, living in Edinburgh adds an important counterpoint to the current editorial team [team? there's just me - Ed] which is based in the Glasgow area. My interests are also different from Scottie - I'm keen on obscure folk groups, one of which featured a very good banjo player, although today Billy Connolly is better known as a comedian and movie actor."

Thankfully, Tam's first contribution, however, is about the opening of the new 15 million multi-purpose building located at the main entrance of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh which brings back memories of these world famous gardens when his kids were young. And there's a Windows Media Video slide show illustrating some of the wonders of the Botanic Gardens. Read on!

If you want to give Tam some encouragement, you can email him direct at tam@rampantscotland.com.

The autumn showers made way to sunshine as I approached the John Hope Gateway, the 15 million multi-purpose building located at the main entrance of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. It seemed a good omen; this was the Gateway's opening day.

I like the quirkiness of the building, which is partly powered by a wind turbine that looks like a giant egg whisk, catching the autumn sun as it whirs away turning Edinburgh's cool breezes into warming energy.

The large amounts of wood and stone used in its construction seem at one with the focus on nature and that theme is continued with the grass covered roof. I admire the irregular outline of the Gateway, the building viewed from the road is quite distinct from side facing the garden. I loathe modern symmetrical buildings that are dull as ditchwater from all angles.

Skilful use of glass and covered areas allow people to see parts of the Garden whilst being sheltered from the rain. The large fig tree in the Gateway's atrium also reduces the barrier between 'inside' and 'outside.' It works for me..

The Gateway

A lot of thought has gone into the design and I hope that the public take this visitor centre, oops, Gateway, to its heart. It is a worthy commemoration of Professor John Hope who was a distinguished Keeper of the Garden late 18th century, when it was located in Leith, a couple miles away from the current site which was established in 1820.

Exhibits describing parts of the collection and the serious scientific work done at the Garden are a few steps away from a sizeable shop with a diverse collection of gifts and souvenirs. I was intrigued by challenge to 'Make your own Mud Clock.'

The first day had attracted a steady stream of visitors who were taking in the various exhibits, or enjoying a meal in the restaurant on the upper level where the view onto the Garden will raise the spirits before the starters have arrived.

The Royal Botanic Garden
Many cities have Botanic Gardens, but I have never seen one any better than Edinburgh's, which is located in the Inverleith district, about two miles north of Princes Street. Seventy acres of gardens are the backdrop to an evolving collection of plants from all corners of the earth. Some of the areas are pristine, some wild - variety is a recurring theme.

The armies of small children who run, roll and tumble through the gardens are oblivious to the serious academic work that underlie the Botanics - and that adds to the charm of the place. It has certain duality at its heart. Part laboratory, part pleasure ground. There is a balancing act to be done.

It is a few years since my children eagerly pulled on their wellies for a trip to the Botanics and in those days there were a group of rather austere wardens who would warn people who threatened to have a picnic or trample through precious flower beds.

Now the stewarding has a lighter touch but cycling, skateboarding and the like are frowned upon.

My visit was too short. I will return, it is free after all. I am pretty sure that future generations will admire the latest addition to these marvellous gardens. Floreat, John Hope Gateway.

Slide Show
There is a Windows Media Video Slide Show with further illustrations of the new Hope Gateway, the glasshouses and the acres of flower beds, including one dedicated to the late Queen Elizabeth - the Queen Mum. Alternatively, right click on the link and download the file ("save link as" or "save target as") and play it using the video player software on your PC. All files are in Windows Media Video (wmv) format.

For more on the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, see their official Web Site.

October 2009

Comments and feedback can be sent direct to Tam at tam@rampantscotland.com.

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