There’s been lots going on at Manor Park over the course of the summer……planning future activities, protecting a legal right of way, wildflowers, Plough pond, playground funding, pathways, and even some blackberry picking…..
We’ve been planning our next Volunteer Morning, which will be held on Saturday 22nd September 10am – 2pm.
After the long summer we need to do some litter-picking to give the park a deep clean, some bramble-bashing to restrain these vigorous bushes, and put up some bat and bird boxes to encourage more wildlife. There’s a few other light maintenance jobs we’d love to get done but these depend on numbers.
As ever we’ll be supported by Elliot Newton from the Environment Trust.
These mornings are great fun – it would be lovely to see you if just for an hour. Free drinks and refreshments on offer.
Private land issue
We’ve been working hard to deal with some of the issues relating to area of privately-owned land in the corner by the railway bridge.
Step 1 in our plan was to get the council to put bollards across the front of the land, by the road, thus preventing travellers accessing the rest of the park. After these were installed we noticed that some kind people moved the last couple of sections of temporary fencing out of the way. It had become very dangerous with sharp metal edges causing a hazard to passers-by. This means the space is now open again.
Diagonally across this land from the bridge into the main park is a path. We believe that this to be a legal right of way. A right of way exists if a path has been used for 20+ years. This path had been used for decades before the landowner blocked access.
The path was strimmed back a couple of months ago. Local residents are now using it daily to enter the park – which is a sight to behold. We’ve had good feedback from the community.
Our next step is to formerly assert this legal right of way. We are being supported by the Ramblers Association in this process. We intend applying for the path to be registered on the definitive map of rights of way held by Kingston Council.
If you were one of those who regularly used this pathway before it was blocked off then please drop us a line at email@example.com – your testimony is very important to the process.
Watch this space…..
As you’ve probably guessed, if you look at our Facebook page, we’re big into wildflower meadows. Why? Well, not only are they beautiful, they’re also a food factory for insects, and a natural habitat for wildlife. If we support more insects we get more birds and bats.
At 25 acres our park offers a real opportunity to make a contribution to the biodiversity of our local natural environment.
Back in April Friends volunteers planted wildflower seeds at the back of the park. These were sown into strips, where we’d first removed the existing grass. Most of these strips have taken, and we’re seeing flowers appearing. If we keep sowing wildflower seeds for the next few seasons and managing this space properly, we should start to develop beautiful areas of wildflower meadow in Manor Park.
Let’s pop over the road to Plough Pond for a moment…..
This pond is a local treasure, and a sanctuary for wildlife. It’s lovely to see the moorhen and her 4 ducklings enjoying the safety of the reeds. We often see a heron hunting the goldfish that people regularly seem to dump into the pond. Although nice to look at goldfish damage the pond’s fragile ecosystem – by munching on everything.
Chris Newman, a local physio, and Friends committee member, is leading the work to improve the Plough Pond space. He’s already run a couple of volunteer days to work on the area around the pond.
He’s now planning to launch a project to replace the fencing around the pond and add in an area of decking on the pub side of the site to allow the community better access, albeit there will still be a fence all the way around to protect the wildlife.
Sarah Gromova, a local landscape designer, is currently working up drawings of what this could look like. Once done Chris will present these to the community for feedback. The plans will then be amended accordingly, the work costed up, and a period of fundraising will commence to pay for these works.
In the autumn Chris will be running another volunteer session to tidy up the green space around the pond.
Back over to the seasonal pond at Manor Park…..
Our volunteers restored the seasonal pond and surrounding vegetation in September last year. This spring we saw the fruits of their hard work. The pond looked great, and most importantly was brimming with tadpoles, newts and other wildlife.
Sadly, as with all seasonal ponds, it dried out at the start of July due to the prolonged dry-spell. Some of our Friends were concerned about this, but after speaking with the Freshwater Habitats Trust we were told it was perfectly normal, and that the wildlife will be ok. The frogs and newts head into the undergrowth. The insects find other places to frequent. And the pond will fill up this coming winter in time for next spring’s breeding season.
The playground project
You may recall, Fiona Sowell, our committee Secretary, and Jenny Lambert led a piece of work to find out what the community wanted from the playground. Over 200 people filled in our survey. Most thought our playground was feeling tired and unloved. You also told us it failed to cater for the very young and the older children. Sadly, Manor Park is not the first-choice playground for many local children, who often ask their parents to take them further afield to Joseph Hood or Cheam Park. This is not ideal – Manor Park needs to become the 1st choice for our local community.
We were told that Manor Park was due an injection of council funding (£150,000 was the figure mentioned) to spend on the play facilities, as part of the council’s rolling programme of playground improvement across the borough. This was put on hold after the elections due to the new administration reviewing the budgets, but I’ve now been told that the playground funding programme is still going ahead, although Manor Park has not been confirmed as a recipient as yet. We met local councillors at the end of July to discuss this matter amongst other things. We are also meeting with Cllr Hilary Gander, the portfolio holder for Parks and Green Spaces in September.
Once we know the status of the funding we will be able to progress the playground project in a manner that reflects the levels of funding open to us. There’s no shortage of exciting ideas – zip-wires, floor trampolines, obstacle courses, more interactive equipment, multi-purpose sports courts, and we’d also like to see some play items placed around the park – log climbing activities – to encourage more exploration of the entire site.
The wooded copse by the railway, immediately behind the privately-owned area of land by the bridge, is coming along nicely. We had a display of bluebells in spring. We’ve done some more work to improve the path through the copse. A team of volunteers from GoodGym helped cover the path in woodchip – which makes the cool walk through the copse much more comfortable underfoot – and just looks nice.
We’ll no doubt be doing some more work to improve and restore this space over the winter months. It would be lovely to get some more bulbs planted for spring.
We’ve been thinking about introducing a Community Orchard to Manor Park for some time. Kingston has a long heritage of orchards with some of its own ancient varieties. Between the bowls club and the railway would the ideal location.
We’ve already got one volunteer who is happy to manage this, Mark Kinge, and we’re just looking for one more person. There’s not a huge amount involved, and you will get some free training.
We’d like to get the orchard planted in late autumn. We’re thinking of running an adopt-a-tree type scheme, so local families can look after a tree – and get more involved. They’d plant their own tree, and then look after it.
We love the idea of the park providing food for the local community – in as much as it helps people connect with nature. This year the park has been reasonable crop of blackberries. I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to pick some for yourself. Just be a little careful with the thorns – suggest you wear long trousers.
It’s been good seeing the park used for community events recently, including the Party in the Park, and the Love thy neighbour event. We’d like to see more community groups using the park in this way. We’d also say that if you want to use the park for an event or activity, but don’t know how to go about this, then do drop us a line. Likewise, if you are involved in organising an event and are running into difficulties, then do drop us a line, and we’ll try to help smooth things along.
A few park users have complained about access to the toilets i.e. not open out of hours. We’ve managed to procure a key to get the toilets opened for evening scouting activities, but I think longer opening hours is a way off.
The tennis courts, as some of you will know is run by an academy, however this doesn’t stop the public using the courts for a small fee. Just turn up and play. If the pavilion is locked, just let yourself on to the courts. The academy also offer free children’s coaching on Saturday mornings – so do take advantage of it. Our view on the tennis courts is similar to the rest of the park – that it is a community asset – your asset and therefore your right to go and use it.
Consultation for temporary outbuilding on the tennis courts
We’ve just heard (03.08.18) that there is a consultation about putting some temporary outbuildings on one of the tennis courts, and extending the tennis pavilion into the car park. We know little about this, but will investigate. Our job is to represent the interests of the community at the park, so we will do so with this consultation.
Here’s a link to the consultation on the council website – https://maps.kingston.gov.uk/propertyServices/planning/Details?caseNo=18%2F14578
The summer usually sees a rise in anti-social behaviour in the park, ranging from litter from picnics, to late night gatherings in the car park or in the woods at the back of the park. The latter activities are very upsetting for anyone who’s house backs on to the park. We’ve asked the police to increase patrols in the park, and have made them aware of the situation. We also need residents to call 999 every single time they see or hear anything suspicious happening in the park. Although, it may not always result in immediate action, it all goes on record and builds up a picture of what is going. The louder we shout the more that will get done.
We liaise with the Old Malden police, and we have been invited to the next residents panel meeting with the St.James police.
With all the recent news of travellers parking their caravans in local parks, we’ve also been working with the local council to make sure that Manor Park is secure. We ask you all to be vigilant. Please call the police if you see any suspicious.
Do drop us a line – we’d love to hear what you think about all this – firstname.lastname@example.org
Simeon Linstead, Chair, Friends of Manor Park