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Happenings in The Parks

Happenings in The Parks

Spring Time Awakening

It’s the Spring Equinox today (20/03) which seems to me to be an auspicious day to be writing.

Phil Newcombe, Assistant Park Manager, Hyde Park, is in a similar Spring like mood and wrote to me:
“It’s amazing how a few bulbs make people smile as we come out of Winter, the COVID test team at Victoria Gate have commented on how many folk stop to admire what is just a handful of Narcissus ‘tete a tete’ by the gateway.”

New projects are under way, older ones being tweaked. Without major events to distract us we can concentrate on all the small things which often make a big difference to the way we are able to use and enjoy the Parks.

New members start here…and I hope long standing members will find something of interest too.

Volunteers are back!

After months of looking at, and worrying about the show case flower bed on the South Flower Walk at the Albert Memorial, our Friends’ volunteers were able to start work again last week. In pairs and for a two hour stint only, they were really pleased to be able to start to get to grips with it. Trustee Tina took this selfie on their first day back with member Jordan, it’s not posed or prearranged but you can see how pleased they are to be there.

Meanwhile trustee Simon Cox is hard at work again in the Allotment and reports that the chickens have new turf (how long will it last?) and a small pool is planned to be built by the bench.

We’ll keep you up to date with progress at both these Kensington Gardens locations.

A Quiet Place

Before they burst into leaf the birches close to the Dell in Hyde Park look stunningly silvery on a fine early Spring day. They grow in the area around the Holocaust Memorial. This is small but thoughtfully laid out with rocks, trees and a very moving inscription. It’s a good place to spend some peaceful time in a busy day. The pale narcissi nearby add to the charm.

The Swale Progresses The story runs and runs which is appropriate for this water feature. I am asked to give locations, if possible, so you’ll find the Swale close to North Carriage Drive and the Manège in Hyde Park.

It was funded by TfL and was designed to take flooding rain water off North Carriage Drive onto an already fairly boggy area of the Park where it should quietly seep away. The intention is that marsh loving marginal plant species will be established and will thrive in the area, in turn will attract small amphibians and invertebrates.

The Swale is not meant to be a river, more a land feature, with water at times, at others damp, and hopefully never bone dry.

There are various watery streams which run under the Park in this area all draining towards the Serpentine but that’s a story for another day.

There were problems earlier on with the design and water lay for too long in parts of it. Its design has been tweaked and a split chestnut railing has been installed around it. It is hoped that appropriate planting for the area will thrive and the fencing, although not a cage, will indicate that this isn’t a canine swimming pool.

Super Bins Arrive

These bins are large and carry a message. They may be bright but they have many advantages.

The original rather smart black bins with a golden Royal Parks logo were small and with open tops. Unfortunately eating habits have changed and they were suitable for life before Family Happy Meals with all the accompanying packaging. Refuse vehicles had to circle many times a day to empty them, cost and pollution being the result. Meanwhile birds and wild animals enjoyed the remains of feasts apparently laid on in the open containers for their benefit, much of which was scattered far and wide.

Huge ugly wheelie bins were brought in. They did the job but were not good for the eyes. Some of these were concealed in subtle wooden covers to make them blend. Sadly the blending was too successful and people walked past them not realising what they were.

So here are the new kids on the block. They carry a message (as in Central Park NY) which is helpful and hopeful it will be read. They are proof against wild life and are capacious. Best of all they have been funded by DCMS.

Football at the Great Exhibition

The pitches are on top of an area where the Great Exhibition was staged. They have always been really difficult to maintain and keep to a standard sufficiently decent for some kind of game to take place for the hundreds of children who play here at weekends, for local schools during the week and for after work soft ball games in the summer (pre Covid of course).

They are often parched or waterlogged and rubble seems to creep up to the surface including, I am told, shards of glass from the Exhibition (Can this be true?). Just some decent grass would help, although the whole area was returfed not so long ago after the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) organisation paid for the area to be reinstated.

Two disc seeder tractors have been very busy close to ‘Will to Win’. They have been sowing modern Ryegrass which is suitable to seed early in the year. The discs cut lines which the seed drops into rather than fattening up the already over fed pigeon population.

Sad to bid Farewell to a Landmark Event
The BBC announced on Thursday that Proms in the Park and Radio 2 Live are paused for this year and then in 2022 will go to venues in other parts of the country. The last night of the Proms in particular was always one of the happiest major events and didn’t have security issues. Families and groups of old friends used to enjoy singing Auld Lang Syne together and a short burst of (electronic) fireworks to send them home at the end of the final concert of the Prom season. They have featured in Hyde Park for many years and it will be missed by everybody who looked forward to this annual event.

The following pieces are contributed by members and make excellent reading. More things to look out for in both of them. Dimity who writes about the “hedges” made from coppiced material on the Long Water often writes about birds and animals. I’m sure she won’t mind me saying she looks for the unusual in Kensington Gardens especially and seems to manage to get in there extraordinarily early in the day. Her last contribution was a real thought provoker about times of sunrise early in the year.

Paul Shelley is our accredited photographer who has had his visits seriously curtailed during lock down. A 30 mile round trip on a bicycle in short daylight hours has been a non starter though he is thinking about peddling back soon. His take on GF Watts was interesting and we boldly DIDN’T include a photo of our Physical Energy. For many members this is the centre of Kensington Gardens and I don’t expect any of you haven’t stood there and admired him against the English sky.

Our very grateful thanks to them both.
Sue Price
Chairman
Friends of Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens

Woodland clearance around the Long Water

If Andy Goldsworthy or Richard Long had been asked to create something from the cuttings and brushwood around the Long Water they might well have charged many thousands of pounds for their artistic creation. Whatever they produced would not have been any more creative or gently part of the landscape than that which our park staff are working on. The previously scrubby appearance is cleared and tidied but in a way that provides homes and nourishment for all the invertebrates we are now supposed to love, as well as Ratty and Friends. Yes, I do mean ‘Wind in the Willows’, not the less appealing sort, though we do need them too.

A taller person would provide better photos but go see for yourself.
Dimity Spiller
Member

Physical Energy

We are all familiar with the splendid Physical Energy at the heart of Kensington Gardens. The magnificent rearing horse and rider – all power and muscle. In Cheltenham Festival week I have become aware of the brilliance of its creator, the Victorian era artist, George Watts.

A few years ago your Chairman, Sue Price, and I were part of a small group to visit the Watts gallery in Surrey where among the exhibits is a maquette of Physical Energy. The links intrigued me.

On further research I found pictures of Watts working on the model at his studio in…Kensington. The casting was dispatched to the Royal Academy and from there onward to Cape Town where it can still be found sitting on the side of Table Mountain looking imperiously over the city. Evidently it was much admired and so a second copy was cast in 1917 which is the one we know and love in Kensington Gardens.

And the connections go on because in 2017 the RA commissioned the casting of another copy which stood in the courtyard during the Watts exhibition that year.

But the story does not end there. Watts was a great Victorian humanitarian and so a few days ago I cycled up to Postman’s Park at King Edward Street in the City for a more detailed inspection of the memorial to self sacrifice. It is a moving installation produced by Watts with a series of exquisitely designed plaques telling the heroic stories of those who gave their lives to save others. There are dozens of great tales on the wall, many of them about children. For example: “Alice Ayres, daughter of a bricklayer’s labourer, who by intrepid conduct saved three children from a burning house at the cost of her own young life 1885.”

So if you love walking by Physical Energy try and drop in to Postman’s Park to admire the memorial there. If you really love it, you can become a Friend of the memorial for free. That would be another heartwarming link between Kensington Gardens, Postman’s Park and the genius of George Watts.

Paul Shelley
Accredited Photographer
Friends Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens

Extra photographs thanks to:
Phil Newcombe
A Friend

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