plants of the tropical ravine
For years Belfast's Victorian sunken Glen, the Tropical Ravine, was in need of a face lift, as it had fallen into disrepair. It was getting to the stage that it would not be safe for the public to enter, never mind the exotic plant collection it housed. In 2015 £4.3mn funding was secured to restore one of Belfast's most unique heritage buildings, and construction then commenced in early 2016. Once I heard that the Ravine was getting a full refurbishment my curiosity was piqued....'how are they going to keep the mature heritage plant collection alive during the invasive construction process needed to meet the strict modern building regulations?', especially in Belfast's very un-tropical climate. It was then I set about volunteering my services to document the restoration of one Belfast's most unique heritage sites.
Over the resulting 18 month period between March 2016 & September 2017 I visited the Ravine regularly to document the progress, with a specific focus on the few remaining priceless trees and plants which were too mature to be removed and remained in-situ throughout the entire construction process. The more time I spent documenting these rare plant specimens, existing entirely out of their comfort zone on a construction site, the more empathetic I became with their plight. It was clear they were unhappy with the situation they found themselves in and were visibly stressed, especially in the autumn/winter 16/17 when there was no roof, windows or central heating in the building. Thankfully due to the excellent work of many parties working in tandem, from the architects & contractors to the horticultural staff in Botanic Gardens, all the plants and trees that had been through the wars made a full recovery.
The images below are a mere snap shot of the photographs I made during my time in the Ravine which were exhibited as part of the 'Plants of the Tropical Ravine' exhibition in the Ulster Museum, Belfast alongside beautiful paintings by Lisa Ballard, Brian Ballard, & Diana Oxlade.