This is a community website for the Friends (and others) of The Lambeth Walk Open Space. The Friends welcome new members whatever their financial or residence status, but local people who use, look at or enjoy our park regularly will get most out of our organisation. Anyone who would like to contribute to the Friends or this blog, please get in touch via the email link (at right, below). We are currently spending nearly £200,000 on the important basics like fence, hedge, play area and path works

Monday, March 29, 2004

Phew . . . as much fun as they always are, getting one of the FoLWOS Open Days together is quite a project, and when the weather dawned on Saturday with cloud cover down to about 150m it looked like we might be in for a long, damp and grey day. It stayed grey, but the spring rain was kind and stayed away almost all day.

Tony the marquee man showed up at 10.00 with his team - pretty soon after Adam Thomas (our landscape architect / consultant) and I had finished re-marking out with spray paint (sic) the new seating area to come, some huge question marks to stimulate ideas and interest, and two possible outlines (of different diameters) for the dog-mess-free area for our little kids we'll be constructing later this year.

I also got the chance to personally thank the Team Lambeth parks worker who, despite several breakdowns for his FIDO vacuum machine during the week, had managed to poop-scoop the park again that morning for a second time.

Then it was all hands on deck as FoLWOS chair Diana, Jane, Adam and I got on with dressing the marquee with display boards, posters, t-shirts and leaflets etc we wanted people to see or take home, and stacked the guard rails and so on ready for the bouncy castles to arrive - which they did in good time and Sean managed to set up and pump up by 12.00 noon as we'd arranged.

Natasha, one of our outreach artists arrived too. She was carrying several bags full of what looked like very colourful seed packets . . . which is almost exactly what they were!

In fact we have two teams of local artists working with the DG project at the moment, spending 10 weeks in primary classrooms surrounding or near the park and in the Ethelred youth club stimulating local children's ideas about ways to value and protect a park, and particularly how to keep dog-mess away from areas used a lot by young kids . . .

The simplest way would be just not to let dogs anywhere near the park at all, but after twenty years of locals using the park grass as their dog-toilet because they have nowhere else to go, it doesn't seem either fair or sensible to ban both dogs and mess from the whole park straight away. And since previously there were no bins of any sort, you really can't exactly blame dog-owners for not using one!

What we hope for the future is that gradually the dog-walkers will see the light and bring along a plastic bag to collect their animal's mess in once it has done the deed, and then just walk a short distance to the new bins we've put in for the purpose.

Human nature being what it is, though, we also figure that gentle regular reminders from other park users who do see the connection between healthy play, healthy kids and no dogmess (plus the introduction of several more bins over this year through the DG) will make a big difference to local habits and a rather better appreciation of the need for all sections of our community to share the park as a community resource.

But rather then just trust to luck and good nature, we also thought that getting local kids to speak up about what they think about the mess, and how to tackle it, was a more positive step.

So Natasha and her colleague Jo have been working in Walnut Tree Walk Primary School stimulating and helping their kids to make a kind of seed packet with a picture of an anti-poo idea on the front, and some words about the idea - just like a seed packet - written on the back.

My favourite from yesterday was the "cool dog" idea: Get a "cool" dog to sit somewhere on the park far away from the designated kids' area, and all the other dogs will want to go and play there with the cool dog instead!

I will try to get a better pic or two of the dozens of beauties our kids have come with already and post them up soon here as well.

Meanwhile, back at the marquee . . . .

Hugo (our other park consultant - what luxury, eh?) arrived to help set up the new display boards describing and illustrating the detailed DG plans and outlining the work we have done so far, while Lambeth parks officers Boulton and Polyzoides took their turns corralling the kids into the right bouncy castle for their size or discussing the DG's progress with Adam, Hugo and the adults who were starting to roll up already.

I guess it is pretty obvious (and smacks a little of the Jesuits' precepts), but "Get 'em young . . . " has been a focus for FoLWOS since we started the DG project, and we aim to keep on keeping on at kids' level as well.

Food arrived in the shape of sandwiches from the Madeira Star cafe just down Kennington Road (past the Cross), drinks and water from Sparrows off-licence on the corner of Wincot St (right opposite the park).

Plus we had home-made piping hot pizzas fresh from the Casa Pizza next door (my thanks to Ahmet for the second FoLWOS Open Day running for firing up the ovens early again, just for us). We managed to serve up 30 eight-slice pizzas in two hours so something was just right for a rawish Spring day!

By now the display boards and the people's questions were getting more attention than the bouncy castles, and both local Prince's Ward councillor Charles Anglin (Lib-Dem), who is the new overall chair of the DG Steering Group and local Member of Parliament Kate Hoey (Lab), turned up to enjoy the day and see what locals thought of all the fuss, as did Bishop's ward councillors, the Parrys.

Judy and Kay - our art workers in the Ethelred Youth Club - arrived too with a banner made by the kids at the Club.

Arrayed right next to the banner were a selection of specially customised t-shirts they had designed for themselves around a "how can we make a visual representation of the idea of protecting our park?" theme. A couple of the images are here now, and with luck I'll be able to put them all up soon as well, with the appropriate credits to the creators too.

Charles and Kate were joined for a suitably cheesy photo-op by Ethelred Youth Club stalwart Fred Peters, standing proudly over one (ok, two) of our new Doorstep Green dog-mess and litter bins.

And soon enough along came Zak the charming, friendly but unarguably miniature pony from the Stables where he lives, just across Fitzalan Street . . .

Meanwhile 2: Behind the marquee, Martha, Patricia and Linda were going great guns at potting on the 100 or so Purple Beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Pendula' for the gardeners among us) "whips" or year-old saplings we bought from the Secret Garden nursery with the help of Sure Start Kennington and Roots & Shoots. The Purple Beech (thought to originate in Switzerland) has been cultivated in Britain since at least 1760, and occurs only in the Northern hemisphere.

Many of the kids lent a hand or two, and the babies seemed to like getting their hands properly dirty a fair bit more than most!

When we erect the new perimeter fence we'll need literally thousands more saplings, but this first 100 are a particularly beautiful shade of deepest red, almost claret, and we plan to dot them among the more common or garden copper beech whips to make up the bulk of the hedge that will line the inside of the new fence. This beech only grows to about 3m high, so we can prune them with all the rest of the hedge (around 1m) to provide splashes of extra colour, or allow some trees to grow taller for the same sort of effect.

They should make a very brave show for almost all the year round, as well as neatening-up the park perimeter, reducing problems with traffic using the park as a turning head and making the whole place look a bit more the thing. . . .

ian nicolson,
FoLWOS membership secretary

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