Welcome to the City of London, where the streets are paved with... turf. Further pockets of the Square Mile recently turned green with the opening of new parks in Aldgate.
'Parks' might be pushing it, for the spaces take up less than an acre each and have more of pavement than pasture about them. Yet it's all very welcome.
Until recently, this strip of land beside St Botolph's was a particularly obnoxious part of the area's one-way system. Pedestrians had a choice between dashing across a confusing gyratory system or braving the dank, noisome underpass network. All particularly dumb, right next to a school.
Now it is reborn. A central oval of grass, bordered by benches, is raised above the surrounding pavement. It was full almost beyond capacity during our sunny lunchtime stroll (see top image) — an immediate success.
A new cafe known as the Portsoken Pavilion has been purpose built to the north of the space. Its distinctive profile is pieced together from currently fashionable weathered steel. This is an area that doesn't exactly beg for more dining options, but here we have a cafe ran by social enterprise Kahaila rather than a corporate chain. A big 'tick' to match the shape of the building.
The gardens of neighbouring St Botolph's have also been reworked and offer a quieter, more contemplative space to enjoy one's lunch.
Indeed, the greenery does not end here. A separate commercial development round the corner has transformed Mitre Square into another oasis of turf and raised flower beds.
It has a particularly friendly Illy caffe which is sure to attract the Instagrammers — so let us be the first:
Few could argue that this once-grotty space is not immeasurably improved. The only losers are Jack the Ripper tour guides. Mitre Square — scene of the killer's penultimate murder — now looks far too polished to fit the narrative. Sometimes, corporate redevelopment of an area can be a good thing.