Seeing the promise in our park
This tiny patch of land - never built on! - rare in London, was listed by Croydon Council as a 'Wayside Amenity Area', not even qualifying as a park. It was used as a scrap merchants (for Rolls Royces and small planes) and a coal merchant, and as stabling for horses from a nearby dairy more than a century ago. The archive shows a fair was held there in 1923.
Had we asked the local people what to rename this patch of land, the likely answer would have been DogPooMcPooFace park, since regrettably, this was mostly how it was used (and thus avoided by most people). But the space has real promise, and is the only patch of green amongst quite a density of 832 households, in fact one of the areas of furthest distance to any green space in the country. And it has one very beautiful Italian Alder ... the tree that Venice is built from, doesn't mind it's feet standing in water which is just as well for a tree on London clay.
So ... a group of neighbours got together, came up with some possible options for making it a much more welcoming space, enriched with plants and flowers for biodiversity and to attract bees and butterflies and space for the community to play, picnic, meet up and enjoy. We created a questionnaire and hand-delivered it to the 832 households, to find out their priorities, which are - litter and dogpoo bins: to maintain open, accessible space for children to run around: plant flowers and shrubs, replace the benches (which are all broken), and have a noticeboard.
Making a start
We've made a start: planted some fruit trees, some native hedging whips, 250 spring bulbs, started digging a winding path to encourage children to play around the trees; neighbours are beginning to tell us that the park is much clearer and smells much fresher .. We've got a keen group of nearly 30 volunteers of all ages, many of whom didn't know each other beforehand despite living in the neighbouring streets for years, enjoying the benefits of working together outdoors to improve the park.
We want to make the park properly accessible with a path suitable for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs to take everyone to the far end, where the walls and Alder create a warm and open space. We're dreaming of much nicer gates, a huge mural on the side of the neighbouring house, events, hopscotch and a chess board painted on the flagstones, events - open air cinema, music events, picnics ... a Fair to mark the 100th year anniversary of that one in 1923 ?
And most important: where you come in
We would love your help! to make the Park a real welcome for biodiversity, wildlife and anyone and everyone who would like to enjoy the space. Anything you can donate will make a huge difference, and we'll keep you in touch with the progress we'll be able to make because of your generosity.
And we hope you'll come and enjoy it with us.
Comments from some of our volunteers:
As a parent of a 3 year old and a 1 year old, it is really important to have green
space close by, within toddling distance of our home, for the kids to run around. We don't have much green space here in our bit of Croydon, so it has been great being involved in making Dartnell Park (as we can now call it) somewhere that is clean and safe for everyone to use.
For too long this park has been neglected. At long last it’s coming alive again, reclaimed and loved by the local community and the difference is already beginning to show. For me, volunteering is a good way to introduce my children to the importance of green spaces & that nothing comes without hard work! It may be a small park, but a lot has already been packed in & there are more plans afoot. As an environmentalist, I’m really pleased that the friends group is considering eco-friendly and reclaimed materials to minimise the impact on the environment and make the funds stretch even further. It is no longer a place to avoid, but has become a community hub (or will be if we were allowed more than a couple of people on site at a time!). I know when it’s finished the launch event will be a wonderful community event to behold (lots of homemade produce shared amongst friends old & new), but until then we’ve work to do. It’s heartening to see the number and range of people involved; it’s given us all something positive to look forward to & cherish in these bleak pandemic times. And every park needs a giant outdoor chess set????
Having a shared space for our local community means so much, it's given a sense of connection to our very local streets. I love that I have talked with lots more neighbours. In all sorts of ways it's been a good thing, I have offered things I can share, asked for their help and felt such a sense of joy visiting the park and waiting for our daffodils to come out and knowing that others are doing the same. Feeling that connection to others gives me a sense of safety, I know there are people who have shared values and will support and take care of others. I picked up dog poo, I didn't have to but getting that positive feedback and thanks meant it felt so much more worthwhile, it had a purpose and it felt like an action that could build momentum and practically support a shift in how our locality is seen and cared for, it is good to se how sprucing it up had had an impact on how everyone views it, they are already taking more care of the space. I had such fun putting up Xmas decorations, it was all recycled and home made and it contributed a to real sense of ownership of the space, it was our park and we were showing everyone that it was a little green oasis and a place of fun.
I'm a great believer in community so that is why I'm volunteering to help out in Dartnell Park. I love gardening so I feel I can put my skills to good use there. I feel the whole community would benefit for a pleasant place to meet & visit, especially in these times. Already the park has benefitted from the work that has been done so far & has engendered much discussion amongst the neighbours. I think the introduction of new seating, a notice board & interesting pathways winding around pleasant planting which encourages wildlife will encourage families to become involved which will have such a beneficial effect on the area.
As a local to Dartnell Park, it has been so lovely to see the community come together to create a nice local place to go. I have felt such great community spirit. I enjoyed creating visuals from the survey/questionnaire data to demonstrate the solutions suggested by the local people to repair the park. The change that has already begun has been wonderful, I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Just a lovely community space, after having been unloved for so long, something very positive for people and the environment.