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Olympic Park Being Turned Into Century's Largest Urban Park

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The Olympic Park is being transformed into the largest new urban park for a century, which will include a "21st century pleasure garden", organisers said.

The summer's flag-waving crowds are long gone and in the January cold, work to convert the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as it has now become, is well under way, with temporary buildings and bridges being stripped out.

Plans for the pleasure garden around the Olympic stadium include a wide tree-lined avenue and a series of "outdoor rooms" with lawns designed to pick up afternoon sun, play areas and even space for a carousel.

olympic park

An aerial view of the Olympic Park, in Stratford, east London

The northern end of the park will be a wilder area, with a greater focus on wildlife as well as being a good place for a family day out, according to the London Legacy Development Corporation which is redeveloping and managing the site.

More than 4,000 trees, 127,000 shrubs and more than a million herbaceous plants will be planted across the park.

Work has already started on the northern parts of the park, which will also incorporate a cafe and play areas from toddlers up to teenagers close to the velodrome and involve conversion of the BMX track to allow wider use and miles of mountain bike trails.

But before the work planting up the southern plaza's pleasure gardens can begin in March, much of the hard-surfaced concourse outside the Olympic stadium has to be removed.

The work forms part of efforts to turn the park, which had to accommodate up to 200,000 people at any one time during the Games, back to a more "human scale".

olympic park

What the Olympic park will look like

Phil Askew, project sponsor for landscape and public realm, said: "This will be a very significant new urban park, the largest new urban park in this country for a century.

"The south of the park will be much more urban in nature, it will be a festival-ly, bustling, busy area. When you go up to the north it's seen as a much more verdant, green area with biodiversity and ecology as well as being a great place to have a family day out."

He said the south plaza was "seen almost as a 21st century pleasure garden", with the themes of perennial and tree planting in the 2012 gardens planted along the river taken up on to what is currently the concourse outside the stadium.

The vast walkway linking the north and south will be stripped down to a series of bridges that reveal the lock and waterways underneath and will even allow the creation of a natural amphitheatre running down to the water, which could host cinema screenings.

Close to the ArcelorMittal Orbit will be a large lawn area where festivals could be held.

Mark Camley, director of park operations, said a 13-metre wide tree-lined avenue will lead visitors from the southern area towards the northern end of the park, with signs and other street furniture kept to a minimum to prevent "overly urbanising" the area.

But in order to allow people to continue to get into the stadium from Stratford station easily, "there will be a big plaza roughly half the size of Trafalgar Square so that we can get that traffic route flow-through," he said.

There's also a focus on wildlife, with the wetlands put in before the Games being maintained and decisions made not to light waterways as the River Lee and canals are important for species.

The north park also has reed beds, grassland and brown field areas and broad-leaved woodland and hedgerows, which all create habitat for different species.

Askew added: "We worked very hard to think about the sorts of species which should be here, not just native but local. We've planted a lot of black poplars which came from cuttings taken before the work started which have been grown on and brought back again."

The north part of the park is expected to open for the one-year anniversary of the start of the Games, while the southern plaza containing the pleasure gardens will open in spring next year.

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