As Kermit once sang:
It’s not that easy being green
Especially if you are a city like Philadelphia, steeped in history, bustling, thriving and full of life.
But fortunately Philly is also dotted with cool green oases for walking, running, parading and general pootling.
Here are 3 of our favourite Philly green spots – two of which you can enjoy for free.
Wissahickon Valley Park
More than 2,000 acres and 80 kilometers of trails cross this parkland in Northwest Philadelphia. Follow the Wissahickon Creek from where it meets the Schuylkill River all the way to the city boundary. You can walk, jog, hike or cycle Forbidden Drive – it’s just motor vehicles that are banned.
It’s Pork Belly’s favourite running spot when we visit the city. The historic Valley Green Inn is a great place to stop and refresh both body and soul and the route also takes in some of Pennsylvania’s famous bridges including the city’s only remaining covered bridge, the Thomas Mill Bridge.
It’s just trees. Isn’t it?
Well that was our initial reaction when we saw the signs but on a slightly damp day when we didn’t want to travel too far or fast it turned out to be a real delight.
Once the family home of brother and sister John and Lydia Morris, it started off as a house with a garden on poor, barren land. Over the years the pair began to landscape the park and plant trees, shrubs and flowers from all over the world.
The Morrises were active in civic affairs and preservation, and believed in the power of education and laid plans for a school and laboratory devoted to horticulture and botany. In 1932 their home became the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.
Today a stroll along its paths will bring you past streams and ponds, through woodland to sweeping lawns and parks dotted with sculptures and discreet information boards.
Even more delightful in the summer months is the garden railway, a quarter mile of track featuring seven loops and tunnels with fifteen different rail lines, two cable cars, nine bridges (including a trestle bridge you can actually walk under) and model trains of all shapes and sizes.
The route is dotted with miniature representations of Philly’s famous landmarks, all made out of natural materials – bark, leaves, twigs, hollow logs, mosses, dried flowers, seeds and stones. An Independence Hall constructed from pine cones, twigs and acorns is a sight to behold and the volunteers who run it are a fount of train-related knowledge.
The Rail Park
The gentrification of city areas can be controversial but Philadelphia’s Rail Park seems to be getting it right. The plan is to turn three miles of the old elevated railtrack into a usable, green space accessible and free for all. The only part completed so far is the quarter of a mile stretch between Callowhill and Broad and Noble, a part of the city off the usual tourist track.
Pathways, greenery and huge bench swings give unusual views of the city. It does have a bit of an arty feel; while we were there group of students was using it for a photo-shoot which included a model sheep (don’t ask) but it’s also well used by local dog-walkers and residents going about their daily business.
Even better, its industrial past is not glossed over or forgotten, instead it’s honoured with info boards and a wall detailing the line’s importance to the growth of the city over the years.
So how green is your city?