It was Saturday 22nd September and the Friends of Manor Park were running another volunteer morning. It’s been just under 12 months since we ran our first such event, which incidentally was supported by over 50 local volunteers. Last year we were blessed with bright sunshine. This year, however, the skies were looking grey and rather foreboding as we set up our gazebo on the grassy area by the seasonal pond. As you can imagine, we were a little worried about how many people would turn up.
Our mission was to push back the bramble that was spreading out towards the cut-through path near the road. After a long hot summer, the park also needed a deep clean – with lots of litter having found its way into the undergrowth. We’d also given local families some bird and bat box kits to assemble (and decorate if they were feeling creative!). Our plan was to install these boxes in the woodland around Manor Park to create extra habitat for our winged friends. It’s also a great way to engage children in conservation type activities.
My worries about turnout were soon proven unfounded, as by kick-off at 10am about 30 people had gathered by our gazebo, and over the course of the morning we counted in excess of 40. So, a really good show – particularly given how nasty the weather became.
We kicked off our day with a quick update on Friends of Manor Park activities. 2019 is the 90th anniversary of our park. We’ve decided, following advice from the Mayor of London’s team, that it would be great opportunity to produce a five year plan for our park – which will deal with a lot of the issues that the local residents have raised e.g. improving the playground, improving security, sorting out the paths, better management of the natural spaces, improvements to the tennis courts, quality of the sports pitches, determining how the community would like to see the hall develop – some are eager for a small café – and much more besides. It’s an exciting opportunity, one which will involve the community heavily in the decision-making process, and which we hope you’ll support at this early stage by making a small pledge to our crowdfunding campaign.
We handed over to Elliot Newton, our environmental expert, who took us all through the tasks for the day, and an equipment safety talk. By this time some of the assembled, and highly decorated, bird and bat box kits had arrived, along with the very creative families who’d turned these humble items into works of art. Elliot headed off with these families in toe to install the boxes in the woodland. Try and find them next time you’re our exploring in the park. We’ve still got 4 more to put up – so we’ll be inviting these families down when we do this.
Whilst Elliot was balancing himself precariously on a ladder in various parts of the park, another group of residents, led by Cllr Simon Edwards, were picking up litter. There seemed to be a lot less litter in the park than when we first blitzed it last October – which was a good sign. Simon found a small camp type area in the rear of the park where it appears people must gather for a bit of late-night drinking from time to time. It was cleared of beer cans, laughing gas cannisters, and other debris.
Back in the meadow by the road, we were bashing away at the brambles. Although they provide a great natural habitat for birds and other wildlife and a wonderful harvest of blackberries each year, they do grow at quit a rate, so left unchecked they spread themselves covering over grassy areas and turning woodland into thicket.
Pushing them back is easier said than done. In the wild, boar will restrain the spread of bramble, no such luck at Manor Park. All the growth that is visible is first chopped out, and then the roots have to be removed with mattocks (these are similar to pick-axes). The roots for each plant send out runners which spread the plants further and further. Amongst the bramble-bashers, we were joined by Cllr Nicola Sheppard from Old Malden, and Cllr Tim Cobbett from St.James Ward.
It’s worth noting that we’ve had lots of support from all our local councillors from both sides of the political divide in the work we do to protect and improve Manor Park.
By about half-eleven the rain was coming down quite heavily – but our volunteers stuck at it. We took our tea break at midday, which was a great opportunity for everyone to meet and get to know each-other.
The brambled-bashing went on all morning because we were trying to push back quite a large area of over-growth. Our volunteers managed to fill a large trailer with cuttings. We discovered a couple of hawthorn trees that had almost been assumed by the bramble. There was obviously a line of trees that had been planted here back in the 90s. We’ll look to do further work ensure these trees aren’t completely overrun.
You can see in the picture below how little vegetation there used to be in this area – but following some work in the 90s it’s become a wonderful natural space.
Towards the end of the day a few of us extracted several panels of broken fencing from near the corner of the privately-owned land by the railway bridge – these were some of the last remaining panels of fencing that the landowner had erected several years ago. This broken fencing had sharp metal spikes sticking out of it – so it was very satisfying to move it away from the path and stack it on the edge of private land by the railway. It’s worth noting that we are working with the Ramblers Association to assert a public right of way across this land.
So, all in all a very successful day. A big thank-you to all the local volunteers who gave up their time to help make our park that little bit nicer. We also appreciate the support we get from our local councillors, Elliot Newton, Andy at idverde (the park contractor), and Tesco, McColls, and the Coop for providing the refreshments.
Our next Volunteer Morning is on Saturday 10th November – you’ll need to wrap up warm for this one.
Chair – Friends of Manor Park