Words by Jessica Peace
BRINGING THE WORLD TO FOREST HILL
… and an EXTRAORDINARY world The Horniman Museum is too. It’s another story of one of those nice Victorian blokes collecting stuff and sharing it with us masses, wanting to “bring the world to Forest Hill”. Frederick John Horniman we salute you.
GRASS, GRAVEL AND FUTURE GARDENS
There’s a few gardens on the Horniman plot (dye, sunken, prehistoric…) and they all connect with the collections inside; but while most of them are having some Winter downtime, we’ve come to see the Grasslands Garden which is still throwing shapes.
Influenced by the Horniman’s ‘World Gallery’ of anthropology; designed by James Hitchmough, the man who threw all that seed onto the Olympic Park; and now looked after by Wes Shaw and his team, Fred Horniman would be pleased to see that the prairies of North America and the grasslands of South Africa have landed in Lewisham - and Horniman’s vision of the gardens being an extension of the museum realised.
Shaw is expecting the garden to come into its own this summer as the younger plants, many grown by him and his team at the Horniman nursery will be coming into bloom for the first time. Hitchmough’s decision to chuck out the topsoil and throw on a gravel mulch means there’s hardly a weed makes its home here and they didn’t have to get the hose out once last summer - yes, THAT summer. This means that in climate changed Britain Hitchmough has found a way to garden sustainably. Hoorah!
For now, you’ve got a few weeks to see the grasses and seeds in their striking winter glory before they are chopped back and fire blown off (imitating the indigenous burning methods, again Mr Horniman would have loved it) to make way for new life come spring.
LEAVE ME IN THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE
Well, for a start it’s warm in here; but what looks like your Grandad’s greenhouse is stuffed with butterflies, bananas, papayas and pentas plants, the host plant for the butterflies.
These beautiful creatures are sent in their pupa state through the post to the Horniman, where they snuggle up and burst out of their cocoons in front of you.
It’s a small, hot space (don’t make our mistake: thermal leggings) which means they are just fluttering about you, HEAVEN. Go on a bright day, they’re more likely to come out and play; and don’t worry about showering in the morning, they’ll land on your shirt if they fancy the smell of you.
THE LORE OF THE LAND
If you like your nature conceptual and well wacky, then you’ll like downstairs at the Horniman right now. ‘The Lore of the Land’ is a response to the collection by artist Serena Korda and the Studio Collective, considering “how different cultures have used plants and water to sustain, alter-states and aid divination”.
Stick your noses in the turquoise ceramics and smell perfumes taken from the gardens. We were diggin’ the soundscapes, it gets pretty rockin’ down there.
JAMES MORGAN’S ‘SEA NOMADS’
Do not leave without running up to this exhibition (it’s a free one) - PEOPLE LIVING ON THE SEA.
The Horniman’s got alpacas, goats, an aquarium, a massive collection of instruments, a nature trail, a sundial collection, photography, stuffed animals, skeletons, free concerts, late nights…
HOW MUCH MATE?
FREE - most of it; for the butterflies and the aquarium you’ll have to get your wallet out and book.
GET ME THERE
Bike racks here
Part of the ‘Green Chain’
76, 185, 197, 356, P4, 122, P13, 363.
WHEN CAN I COME?
10am - 5.30pm every day