Ever seen a garden on top of a train station. I have. And it’s not small either. Handsomely large, complete with firs, hawthorne, yew, laurel, lime, ash, a vegetable patch and an area of grass for picnics. All of this above Perrache station in the centre of Lyon.
It’s not marked on any map. It doesn’t even seem to have a name. Signs on the station concourse simply read Jardin and point to some stairs leading up. It’s an amazing idea though. What else could a flat concrete roof be used for. Pigeons. Dead people. Collecting rain?
Yet nobody has ever told me about it. It’s always, ‘Oh, you must go to this restaurant or that museum.’ Why not, ‘You MUST visit the hanging gardens of Perrache.’
It’s the trees that make it. They’re very mature seeing as the station and the garden were only built in 1976. The bent yews in the corner look like they were once in a churchyard of an English village. The dense hawthorns from ancient hedgerows in Suffolk. And the thick ashes almost identical to the ones I remember from the wood near my childhood home in Leeds.
The entire area covers about half a football field and considering the mainline railway is below and the Autoroute de Soleil fifty yards away, it’s incredibly quiet.
There’s even a wheelbarrow tucked away under a conifer, which I’m surprised hasn’t been stolen. But why would it? Who’s going to steal a wheelbarrow in the middle of the city where there are no gardens.
I built a garden at school one summer. A science garden to be precise. Me and a few others plus Mr. Hunt (one of the few teachers at school I liked, mainly because I knew he despised the headmaster as intensely as I did) dug a pond, built a fence, laid a lawn and erected a glasshouse. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s still there. Even though it’s no longer a science garden. It’s a memorial garden. For who, it doesn’t say. Certainly not the poor bastards who built it.
I went to a party on Saturday night and when I told everyone about the hanging gardens of Perrache they looked at me as if I was nuts. ‘A garden on top of Perrache. Have you been on the old happy juice again, Oggers?
‘It’s true. It’s got ash, yew, laurel. Even a vegetable patch with a wheelbarrow!’
I couldn’t convince them and was soon asked to leave. ‘But it’s true,’ were my last words before a couple of heavies escorted me out of the building.
I went back on Sunday to take a picture to prove it. But when I arrived at the station I couldn’t find the stairs. I asked the assistant at the information desk, who looked at me very closely. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘The garden on top of the roof,’ I repeated pointing up. I could see her finger creeping towards a big red button on her desk marked IN EXTREME EMERGENCY ONLY. ‘The garden,’ I continued, ‘on top, above here, it’s got ash, yew, laurel…’ I stopped. ‘It’s doesn’t matter, I must be thinking of somewhere else.’
She nodded politely and pressed the button. Sirens started wailing out as I ran full speed to the door. Followed by eight angry gardeners armed with pitchforks. I suppose some things are best kept secret …