Monday, 13 April 2015

Grosvenor and Heras Fence Park part 2

The next 12 months are going to be busy in the park as we embark on the main phase of the lottery project's capital works.

The Pavilion refurbishment work is coming along nicely with Bolt & Heeks still on track to complete by July 2015. They are trying to keep the public toilets open as much as possible but they will have to be closed for periods of time between now and July. Once completed the Pavilion will host a new baby changing facility and an indoor seating area for the cafe.

Pavilion under refurbishment

Renovation work to Marnock Lake and the Grottoes (or dripping wells) is also progressing nicely. The lake has been de-silted and the dripping wells nearly fully restored. Many of the shrubs and trees around the lake are being cleared to make way for new planting to enhance the area back to its former glory.  So it will look a little stark for a while before the new plants establish.

Advance works to the Rochdale Road entrance are nearly complete.  This original entrance is being re-opened and will make the area by the Pavilion a much more attractive site with lovely vistas of the park as you enter from Rochdale Road.  The electricity sub-station that was in the old entrance has now been relocated just round the corner in an area that will be the park-keepers store/lock-up and volunteer base.  The containers for the park keepers and the volunteers will be timber clad and have green roofs.

Contractors for the playground and landscape works have now been agreed and these works will begin shortly once start-up meetings and programmes have been arranged.

Ghost Tree now on its side, making a nice habitat feature

So we are now in that period of having lots of contractors on site, fences and occasionally unsightly messes but it will all be worth it as the park will look fantastic once the project is complete.

There will of course still be fun and interesting events going on in the park over the year as well as our regular volunteer tasks.  Please follow the GHParkHLF facebook page for all the latest events and activities. Here are some pictures from recent events:

Planting up the old rose beds

Community Planting Day - rose bed makeover

Coppicing training day for volunteers

Coppicing training day for volunteers

Create a Nature Diary

Create a Nature Diary

Friday, 6 March 2015

Grosvenor and Heras Fence Park Part 1

Works have now started on the Pavilion which is exciting.  The contractor, Bolt and Heeks, have set up camp with their double decker container and will be on site until July. Access to the bowls green will always be available and access to the toilets shall be maintained as much as possible.

The Rochdale Road entrance works are moving along steadily with the ground works nearly complete.  The small substation will next be relocated so the original Rochdale Road entrance can be restored.

(photo courtesy of FOGH)

Artist impression of the new Hub area

Marnock Lake is looking a bit more open since some of the preparatory clearance treeworks have been carried out. The lake was lowered again to allow for 3 jobs to be completed: installation of a pumping house for the dripping wells; completion of de-silting the lake; and tree works on the island.  The pumping house installation was the first job and this is nearly complete, allowing for the contractor to return and complete the de-silt.

Making the pump house for the dripping wells

The wetland area has been allowed to lower naturally for the season on advice from a professional ecologist.  The reason being that we need to reduce the habitat suitability for wildlife so that when the landscape works start there in autumn there is as minimal damage to wildlife as possible. Once the landscape works are complete the habitat quality of the wetland will be greatly improved and have a positive effect on the biodiversity of the area.

Artist's impression of the wetland area

Our Community Orchard is coming along splendidly. We had a wonderful community planting day on 21st February when 25 fruit trees were planted by their sponsor families.  Despite a random snow shower in the morning the sun soon came out and everyone had a wonderful day. Each tree was blessed by its sponsors using the traditional method of wassailing. A little cider was poured on the tree (or drank in some cases) whilst a wassail poem was read out.  This should encourage good health for the tree and a bountiful crop.

Wassailing in action

On Saturday 21st March we shall be having a community planting day from 10am until 1pm that everyone is welcome to come along to. We shall be planting up the old rose beds at the back of the Bowls Green with some lovely fragrant flowers and herbs.  We will also make a few habitat features like bug boxes and burrow posts.  The result should be a lovely colourful and fragrant area that will be easier to maintain than the rose beds and should even allow Lee to use some fresh herbs in his paninis! Do come along for as long as you can - tools, gloves and refreshments will be provided.

Oakley work experience lads helping prepare the beds.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Mud, Men at Work, and More...

It may seem like there is rather a lot of destruction going on in the park at the moment. Whichever way you turn, trees and shrubs are coming down, paths are being dug up, diggers are making mud, lots of mud.  But it is all positive work and a sure sign that long awaited improvements are finally insight.

The original Rochdale Road entrance will be re-opened as part of the lottery funded project and advance works are currently underway. The hedges and shrubs have now been removed making way for the contractor, Blakedown, to dig trenches and connect the dripping wells, the Pavilion and the relocated sub-station with utilities.  Over the next couple of weeks, the footpaths near the Pavilion and Marnock Lake will occasionally be closed to facilitate this work.

Rochdale Road Entrance

Whilst this work is going on the de-silting of Marnock Lake, which turned out to be a larger job than Mid Kent Fisheries originally anticipated, is on hold.  The lake has been allowed to refill in the meantime and the clearance will be completed in late February/early March.

On the other side of the park, the evergreen hedge between the Oast House and Hilbert Road has been cut down and cleared.  This hedge was nearing the end of its life and will be replanted with a native mixed hedge and native broadleaf trees such as Field Maple.  This is part of the improvements to the Hilbert Road entrance.  The clearance works had to be done now before bird nesting season starts.

Hilbert Road

There have also been workers with diggers over the last couple of weeks based near the Hilbert Road entrance. They are carrying out repair work to the culvert by the Redleaf Close entrance to the woods.  This is not part of the lottery project but essential park repair work.  They have made rather a mess of the grass going round to the culvert owing to the weather.  This grass will be made good following their completion of the job.

There have unfortunately been some delays to the skate park work as a result of varying issues that Gravity Skate Parks have been experiencing.  However, we do anticipate work to start on site Monday 9th February.  Fingers crossed!

Our volunteers have been hard at work over the winter months and I am pleased to report on trees being planted rather than cut down.  Despite the chilly weather in January, a few hardy souls of all ages, helped plant a small hedge by the power station.  It will be a little while before it is big enough to mask that fence but lovely for those that helped plant it to watch it grow over the years.  We also sowed a few wildflower seeds in the bare areas.

Getting stuck in with planting!

Looking forward to seeing the hedge rather than the fence!

The park also welcomed the arrival of five little Black poplar trees this week courtesy of the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Black poplar is a native broadleaf which enjoys boggy ground and wet woodland...perfect for us! It is also a declining species in the UK and has great wildlife value. So we are very pleased to be hosting and supporting new planting.  The council's very own, David Scully, planted them himself with a (very) little help from me and the chair of the Friends group, Liz.

Warning - Council officer at work

The Grosvenor and Hilbert Park Community Orchard is coming along wonderfully.  We have our first group of community tree sponsors signed up and looking forward to planting their trees this February.  A fascinating talk by fruit expert Roger Worraker and his wife, Celia, provided a lovely occasion for everyone involved in the orchard to meet up and learn more.  Roger and Celia successfully developed the Five Oak Green Community Orchard and generously shared their knowledge and tips with us over some home made cake and cider.

Roger Worraker

If you would like to be involved in the Community Orchard do please get in touch with me or the Friends group.

Also, if you have any questions about work going on in the park do not hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tis the season for sludge sucking, tree planting and marshmallows over a campfire!

Happy Christmas everyone! This shall likely be the last blog post of 2014 which has been a year of planning, fun activities, lots of volunteer work, and a few changes in the park.  I believe 2015 will have a lot more exciting things to report on as the lottery project develops and work gets under way.  To give you a taster of things to come, we have had an artist create his impression of the park in the future following the lottery funded works....

The Hub

Marnock Lake

The Whole Park

The Play Area

The Wetland

There are now a few temporary noticeboards up at some entrances to the park displaying these images and what work to expect next year.

This week has been an exciting week for Marnock Lake and its resident wildlife.  As early work in the lottery funded regeneration of our heritage features and to improve the water quality, the lake is currently being de-silted.  You may have noticed the sludge suckers lurking around! The fish that were in the lake were safely re-homed in advance of this and our rather confused resident ducks will no doubt come and go as the work goes on but will be happy when it's all back to normal and cleaner than ever.

I am very pleased to say that our Community Orchard has now landed with the planting of 15 semi-mature fruit trees (6 cherry, 3 damson, 3 crab apple and 3 black mulberry) in National Tree Week at the beginning of December, Applications are currently open for members of the local community to sponsor and plant their very own fruit tree as part of the orchard.  This first phase of community planting should occur in February half term.  If you want to get involved or sponsor a tree please visit the Friends website,uk. The deadline for current applications is 5th January 2015.

The fabrication of new pieces of equipment for the Skate Park is now complete and we expect to see Gravity SkateParks on site over the next couple of weeks installing and carrying out the necessary alternations.  An on a non-lottery matter, if you have noticed large piles of stone by the Hilbert Road gate and a small container, this is for the repair work to the culvert in the woods near Redleaf Close.  This work will be happening over the next few weeks.

Our volunteer programme will break for Christmas now and be back on from Thursday 8th January. The new programme is now on the noticeboards and Facebook page - please feel free to come along anytime. Also look out for upcoming events in the new year such as family volunteer days. Posters will be on the noticeboard and details on the ghparkhlf Facebook page.

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year! We leave you with some pictures from our fun and wintery Woodland Adventure Day...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Up the apples and pears to a better park

Next week is National Tree Week and this seems the perfect time to get started on planting our very own Community Orchard.

Next week, contractors will be planting 15 semi-mature fruit trees to start the orchard off with our first phase of community planting due to occur in the coming February.  From the 1st December you will be able to apply for tree sponsorship via the Friends of Grosvenor and Hilbert Park website. Visit for details.  The deadline for applications will be 5th January 2015.

On Saturday 8th November we had soil expert Vaughn Redfern come and dig a soil pit in the orchard site to show us what lurks beneath the grass. And we all breathed a sigh of relief when he discovered that we have a lovely rich silty clay loam soil which is well drained.  That is positive news for our future fruit trees.

We followed the soil examination with a lesson in trigonometry from our very own Gavin Wilkinson who helped us with the first steps of marking out the orchard using a simple method with string and sticks! So all in all, a productive and educational day.

We shall be finishing the marking up this Thursday with our first Orchard Volunteer Day.  So feel free to come along and help from 10am.

Other exiting news is that construction of the new pieces of skate park equipment has now begun. Installation and work on site is due to begin in mid-December.

The large-scale capital works such as the Rochdale Road entrance and Pavilion refurbishments are still in the administrative procedure stages and we anticipate work commencing on site in February 2015.  You will see clearance works in the park happening between now and then in preparation of this.

Don't forget that even though it's winter, and even though the park will soon be in various states of work, there will still be plenty going on.  We have Woodland Adventure Day on the 6th Dec and the FofGH Carol Singing on the 14th Dec.  There is also plenty of volunteering days happening too.  Follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for up to date activities or get in touch.

Thanks to those of you that attended our last two park events - the FofGH Halloween Party and the Fungi Walk.  We were very lucky with the weather and fun was had by all!

Fungi expert Bryan Bullen

Fungi in the woods

Happy Halloween!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Change is in the winter air

We are drawing closer to winter and with it will come the start of some big and long awaited changes in the park.

November will kick off the exciting changes with the much needed and desired skate park repairs and improvements.  Gravity plan to begin the work from the week commencing 17th November and should not take more than a week or two to complete, weather and unexpected challenges permitting.

Then on the same side of the park, our Community Orchard will begin to take shape during National Tree Week (the first week of December).  We shall be having 15 semi-mature fruit trees planted to start the orchard off with our first phase of community planting to occur in the coming February. There will be a planning event on Sat 8th November that everyone is welcome to get involved with - look out for posters and information in the park and on the FofGH and park Facebook pages.  And then an orchard grid marking volunteer day on Thursday 27th November.  Details of how you can dedicate and plant your own tree will be published shortly.  But if you want to be more involved in the orchard project please contact the Community Engagement Officer or the Friends group.

Works on the Pavilion area and Rochdale Road entrance will be the next works to begin following that.  The HLF project team currently have an artist drawing up pictures of what the park will potentially look like following the works so people can see what the end goal is following the few months of the park looking like a building site!  These will be coming very soon.

You may have noticed more people armed with tools in the park lately.  We have a volunteer day each Thursday and on Fridays, a small group of Oakley School senior students do work experience in the park to help prepare them for when they finish school.  Overall we hope to improve the habitats in the nature reserve side of the park and enhance different areas of the park for visitors and park users.  There does seem to be a constant battle against litter and dog poo but hopefully the better kept the park is, the better people will treat it.

Oakley boys armed with litter pickers!

Friday 10th October was World Mental Health Day and to help raise awareness the Tunbridge Wells Health Team and Kent High Weald Partnership held an event in the park.  There was information on local services and also a few activities that people could have a go at such as wood working and gardening.  Despite the dubious weather it was a good day with a good objective. One in four people are reportedly affected by mental health issues and there are some great services and groups out there to support and help people.

Green woodworking in action

It has been proven that doing outdoor work such as conservation and gardening can aid physical and mental wellbeing. So if you fancy coming and volunteering in the park or with the Kent High Weald Partnership do get in touch.

You will find the latest volunteer programme on the park noticeboards by the Pavilion and the Hilbert Road gate.  There is always something fun going on in the park so this is where you will also find details of upcoming events and activities.

Finally, we end this post with some lovely pictures of wild art and fairy homes made by local school children in the park.  Those of you that noticed an increase in the noise levels in the park recently will know when these were created!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

From super summer to awesome autumn

As a fun-filled and sunny summer draws to a close autumn is upon us and bringing with it the promise of more exciting things to come.  Over the next few months the park HLF project will really start to take form and we shall soon be seeing workers and changes steadily arrive.  That doesn't mean the fun has to stop though - we will still have family events and plenty of volunteer tasks so keep a look out on the noticeboards.

Over the last month our volunteers, with the help of the parkies and KHWP, have done some great work in the park. There has been some tidying up around the Oast House, plenty of litter picking, and the wood pasture area has had its annual cut and thin and is looking great.  We are also delighted to host work experience for a small group of Oakley School students who will also be helping make the park look lovely.

Consultation regarding the skate park improvements is going well and we shall soon be finalising the plan and look forward to getting the work booked in this winter hopefully. The deadline for feeding back on the latest plans is Monday 6th October so do get in touch if you have an opinion.

More exciting news - our community orchard will be beginning to take shape in National Tree Week at the end of November.  A small group of semi-mature fruit trees will be planted to get the orchard started and the first phase of the community planting will take place in February 2015 (weather permitting).  Don't worry, you have not missed out on dedicating a tree. Details on how to go about choosing and dedicating your tree will be coming soon.  If you wish to have a larger role in the community orchard project and want to be involved in planning and management please contact the Friends group or email