Tuesday, 16 August 2016

London National Park City event at Festival Hall in September

Those of us involved with parks and green spaces in London will surely have heard of the campaign to make London a national park city. This is not trying to replicate the rural National Parks model. Instead it wants us to focus and appreciate that around 50% of London is green spaces and blue spaces; parks, nature reserves, woodlands and community gardens, domestic gardens and green spaces around housing estates, rivers, ponds and lakes, canals.
To quote from the blurb on their website: http://www.nationalparkcity.london/ Let's make London the world’s first National Park City. A city where people and nature are better connected. A city that is rich with wildlife and every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors. A city where we all enjoy high-quality green spaces, the air is clean to breathe, it’s a pleasure to swim in its rivers and green homes are affordable. Together we can make London a greener, healthier and fairer place to live. Together we can make London a National Park City. 
If this has whet your appetite to find out more, then on 21st September there will be a big event ' The Making of a National Park City'. at the Royal Festival Hall at London's South Bank. Tickets range in price from £10 to £30 depending on where you would like to sit plus a booking fee of £1.75
I have bought my ticket and am looking forward to an interesting and enjoyable evening.
It promises to be a great evening. Hosted by comedian Josie Long, there will be guest speakers including designer Wayne Hemingway.  The Bollywood Brass band, artists and poets will provide a range of entertainment. Here is a list of some of the line-up with more to be announced:
Josie Long, comedian
Wayne Hemingway, designer
Dame Fiona Reynolds, campaigner
Andrew Simms, economist
Bollywood Brass Band, musicians
Judy Ling Wong, community activist
Beth Coller, psychotherapist
Simon Jakeman, firefighter
Laila Sumpton, poet
Rifat Batool, headteacher
Dr Tom Coffey, GP
Jasmine Kamal-Pasha, photographer
Mathew Frith, conservationist
Rachel Bradley, sustainability manager
Paul Hamblin, national parks director
Daniel Raven-Ellison, explorer
Charlton Manor Primary, bee keepers
Andy Mitchell, CEO
Charlotte Webster, artist
Chris Romer-Lee, director, Studio Octopi

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Old oak falls July 2016

A member of  Friends of Mayow Park Facebook group posted a message on Friday 22nd July with sad photos about a mature oak tree . One of its major trunks had split and fallen from the main tree. From other comments on that thread, it seems likely that the tree had unexpectedly fallen the evening before around 7.30 pm. Being later in the evening, the park was not busy and luckily no-one was hurt as the tree is near the path that goes past the older children’s play area.
Our Facebook group is very effective at reporting positive or negative happenings in the park which helps to spread the word quickly. The damaged tree was reported to Glendale Lewisham via email the evening of the day it was posted on Facebook. The fallen section looked unsteady but it seemed unlikely that anything would happen on a Friday evening after office hours . 

These photos were taken on the Friday afternoon: 

How good to find out  that first thing the following morning Glendale staff came and draped striped tape around the tree so that people would keep their distance. No tree surgery could take place at that time. Any major works and tree surgery have to be approved by Lewisham’s arboricultural officer and skilled tree surgeons need to be called out so I did not expect much action for days.

On Friday 28th July an arboricultural team from Glendale Arboricultural Services arrived to work on the fallen oak. The team, wearing harnesses and hard hats, skillfully cut up the trunk that had split from the main trunk. They had to cut most of the remaining standing trunk too, as it  was leaning to one side and could become dangerous. 

One of the guys explained that they were aiming to leave much of the main trunk as a 'monolith' i.e. a dead tree left to decay in a standing position to allow it to support a wide range of species that are dependent on decaying wood.
Woodland management can include a standing dead tree. The team made the tree safe by reducing its height . The hope is that the tree will continue to support a variety of animal and plant species that rely on dead wood including fungi, invertebrates, small mammals and birds. As we saw, the team also left some logs close to the tree to encourage invertebrates.
Signs of hope? A young branch still lives on this monolith tree.
The arboricultural contractors showed great care for the tree as well as safety for themselves and park users. As a Friends group we care about creating a range of habitats for the wildlife of the park so we wait to see if the tree will survive, like its near neighbour the 'lightning tree' oak about 20 metres away. Look carefully at the first of these two monolith photos and you should see a small living branch . . . a sign of hope that the tree may survive.

We don’t know the age of the tree but it is likely to have been over 200 years old. Whether is partially grows back or whether it will die, the tree will continue to serve a purpose in the park.  

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Lark in the Park 18th June 2016

Photo by Carol: Cricketters having a break

Mayow Park is a 5 minute walk from Sydenham Road but it sits within the Lewisham Council ward of Perry Vale and is the main green space for that ward. The Friends of Mayow Park committee were delighted when we learned that our park was to host the Perry Vale Ward assembly 'Lark in the Park' community event.
It was planned over a few months by Councillors and council officers who contacted various community groups and associations as well as Brown and Green Cafe in Mayow Park.
On 18th June the weather was overcast but generally dry making it ideal for this great event. Cars and larger vehicles were driven into the park at 5mph, lights flashing, and then driven out again according to the regulations, in order to set up. People were unloading banners, chairs, equipment, food, gazebos,  games and piling up a whole host of equipment onto tables to prepare eye-catching displays.
The Perry Vale ward officers and councillors had a small marquee located between the tennis courts and bowls green, by the middle path.
The old bowls green hosted taster sessions for those interested in croquet. However, the grass is cut as amenity grass these days since the demise of the bowls club and I gather that means the grass is too long to play a decent game of croquet.
Photo by Carol: Try playing croquet when you are being pulled away by a toddler!
 Friends of Mayow Park set up a table next to our gardening space, by the raspberry bushes and under the holly tree. It was a good opportunity for us to publicise who we are and what we do as not all visitors were aware that Mayow Park has a Friends group. Some people signed up to go on our mailing list and to be kept informed about meetings and events. We had tree leaf identification sheets available for those who wanted to check out some of our park trees plus information on our orchard.
Photo by Carol. Two of the FOMP committee - Robert holding Harry his dog and Alona sitting  
Here is a list of some of the other organisations that contributed to the day and their activities:
Arthouse Make a protest workshop - Use creative  resources to make a placard to protest
about what is really important to you. With your creations you can Join a parade at the end of the day.
Lewisham Homes Information stall - to promote Lewisham Homes services
Metropolitan Police  Free Bike security Marking and crime prevention advice & leaflets
Forest Hill Society Information stall - working to make Forest Hill an even better place to live. 
Economic Development team

Fair Trade Quiz and samples of Fairtrade projects to try.

Lewisham Police / Police Cadets  Crime prevention stall, general assistance with set up and stewarding
Brent Knoll School Yr 10 Enterprise Group. Handmade gifts and crafts by pupils
Mike Mad for Fitness Demonstration of Outdoor gym equipment.  Also volunteer first aider
Let's Talk about Dogs Let's talk about dogs - engagement with local people on their attitudes to dogs.
Young Lewisham Project
A stall selling recycled/upcycled items made by our young people. Also a Dr Bike service so people can have their bikes repaired.

Sydenham Tennis Club

2 Tennis coaches and croquet club members to run activity tasters

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

 Dog microchipping, pet health checks, dog law and outreach
Information Stall - help and advice with all aspects of housing

Fusion - The Bridge Leisure Centre
Afterburn and Box Aerobics (Boxercise)
Fusion - Afterburn Academy Afterburn - (Looking good on the beach!)

Bubble and Bounce
Soft play area
Tumshies Face painters X 2 - sponsored by Lewisham Homes and L&Q

Teatro Vivo - Usherettes

Usherettes - handing out information, engagement with public
Brown and Green Provided prize for cake decorating activity
FHBS - Cake decorating
Cake decorating masterclass, and FHS Young Producers Present: “The Big Mix Up” Cookbook-let
Dacres TRA
Committee member attended to engage with public

Forest Hill Womens Institute

Information stall and cakes for sale

The Caribbean Mix cricket team were playing a match on the centre field during the afternoon for those who wanted to sit and relax.
Photo by Carol: Caribbean Mix CC

Photo by Carol: tennis coaching at the tennis courts
Photo by Carol: Dr Bike  in the shadow of one of our ancient oaks 
It was a wonderfully busy day with many people enjoying the activities on offer, chatting, chasing toddlers, eating, smiling.  At 4pm the day of festivities came to an end and stallholders packed up. Many stayed to help  the Lewisham team to load equipment back onto the van.
A number of people commented that his event had felt like a village fete.
For next year I would like to suggest community music and dancing during the afternoon to reflect our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community: we could have any combination of: Morris dancing and  folk music from around the British Isles, music and dance from the Middle East, the Far East, Mediterranean countries, India, Bangladesh, the Caribbean, the African continent, the Americas, Eastern Europe, Asia and Australasia.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Workday at the Triangle on 21st July 2016

Would it be too hot and humid to work in the Triangle garden? That was the question being asked the day before,after one of a series of very hot (over 30 degrees C) and humid days.
Would we have enough volunteers to make a significant impact on the overgrown plant beds?
The rainy weather in May and June, coupled with warmth, had seen a small amount of bindweed turn into a strangling mass of long thin strings winding round our herbs. The herbs had also grown and were falling across the woodchip path throughout the plant bed, hiding the path.
Herb bed looks more like a nature reserve
Hard to know where to begin!
As for the adjacent fruit bed, that too was overgrown. The raspberries were doing very well much to the joy of passers-by who grazed the fruit but the grass had grown so that it was impossible to see the stepping logs and the patch with primroses and blueberries was only visible if you knew it was there. Pulling away the long grass exposed this patch.
Grass removed to expose the blueberries and primroses
The woodland style wood chip bed that meanders behind the hedgerow and in front of the dawn redwood tree to the water fountain was bare and needed a deep layer of fresh wood chips, while the path edge logs were rolling away and needed to be bedded in.  The tree stump 'den' opposite the raspberry bed was shouting for a bit of a trim too.
Tree stump den opposite the raspberry bushes
It turned out to be a reasonable day, hot but not scorching,  with clouds and a light breeze. By 11am the Nature's Gym volunteers, and leaders Jess and Judith, had arrived. Before long the volunteers had done their warm-up exercises, tools were given out and work started. In total, and including Mayow Park volunteers, there were 13 people. 
Working hard at our tasks
Tasks were chosen and everyone got on with the hard work of making the beds look  cared for. We all worked so hard that the time flew but luckily someone realised that we had gone beyond the normal tea time/ lunch break.  Without further ado, hot water flasks came out of the van; tea-bags, coffee, milk and biscuits too. And everyone took a well-deserved breather.

Lunch break on the grass, in the shade of a tree, in front of the cafe
After lunch we all carried on with our tasks. And, as before, we lost track of time. The path by the dawn redwood tree looked better for a good layer of fresh wood chips laid along its length.
Wood chip path by the dawn redwood tree
It was almost time to stop. Two of the volunteers would not give up until they had finished laying wood chip mulch along the path through the herb bed.
The Nature's Gym volunteers were determined to complete the job
We cleared up all the green waste and piled it up ready for the Glendale grounds maintenance team to collect to take to a garden waste recycling centre.
When all was finished, Judith and Jess were finally able to pose for the camera knowing that a huge amount of clearing and tidying had been achieved and that the work of their volunteers was really valued by the Friends of Mayow Park.

It was time to look at the garden and note the cardoon plants, with their purple flowers just emerging atop the tall stem structures. Other park users were also admiring these grand architectural plants and noting the bumble bees flitting between the flowers. 

Cardoon flowers looking beautiful
There is still more work to do as the bindweed has also colonised parts we did not manage to clear. So a call to park users for another workday is on the horizon. 
Thank you to all the Nature's Gym folk who turned up and worked so hard to help.

Friday, 22 July 2016

June 2016 Mayow Park tree walk part 2

A month ago I started writing  about the Friends of Mayow Park family-friendly tree walk, which took place on 5th June and which included measuring tree height, tree girth and bark rubbings of a few trees.
I'll now try to complete that post
We moved on from the row of silver birch trees, past the former bowls green. Immediately on the right is a good example of an ancient oak that has been pollarded. Trees with a number of trunks above head height are called pollards.  Pollarding involves cutting branches off to encourage growth of new trunks above head height and was a common form of woodland management. The cuts, and therefore new shoot growth, were above the reach of grazing livestock belonging to commoners. This particular pollard had four trunks at about 10 feet high but one had to be removed around 5 or 6 years ago for safety. Seen below is the same tree from different sides. It has three trunks although you can only see two in the photos.

Pollarded ancient oak between bowls green and tennis courts
Mike, with help from some children, measured the girth of this pollard at 5.2 metres, which we estimated as around 300 years old.

hornbeam seed pods

Bark rubbing of hornbeam
Our next stop was the hornbeam. Although hornbeams are indicator trees for ancient woodland, this is a young tree that would have been intentionally planted.
hornbeam leaves

 Hornbeam leaves and seed pods are quite distinctive.
the beautiful hornbeam opposite the orchard

 Before moving on we looked briefly at the orchard, opposite the tennis courts. The orchard now contains 18 fruit trees, all heritage varieties, which were planted in 2012 and 2016 with the support of the Urban Orchard Project.
Mayow Park Community Orchard
Our next stop was the number 1 favourite tree in the park for many children . . . the climbing tree. Quercus Ilex or holm oak is easy to spot, not far from the Recreation Road gates. It is an evergreen oak that sheds its leaves throughout the year and casts such a shadow around it that no plants grow underneath. I recently met an adult in his forties who, as a child, loved climbing that tree. So it has really stood the test of time.

the best climbing tree in the whole park
Heading back across the park we briefly stopped by a row of oaks that clearly look like they were intentionally planted as boundary oaks, to mark field or property boundaries.
Boundary oaks in Mayow Park early spring 2016
We headed across the oval field to the tree we think must be the oldest oak in the park. It stands near the fountain and is another pollard. Its girth was 5.4 metres,  measured at a height of 1.3 metres from the ground. Could this tree really be around 340 years old? I'd welcome measurements of other oaks and age calculations from other people.
within sight of Victorian fountain
girth 5.4 metres
Could this be the oldest tree in the park?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

June 2016 Mayow Park tree walk part 1

On 5th June the Friends of Mayow Park held their first ever family-friendly tree walk, aimed at adults and children alike. A total of 18 adults and 10 children attended the walk.
Mayow Park has quite a few unique and unusual trees within its boundary but this 90 minute walk was only able to take in a few, an introduction to what the park has to offer.
Our walk started near the cafe and first stop was the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), a magnificent conifer that sheds its leaves in the winter - so it is a deciduous tree.  It is a fast growing tree and possibly only about 50 - 60 years old. Wouldn't it be great  if someone would  research park records to find out exactly when it was planted and its origin?

Dawn  as she looked in early April before her leaves grew back
Photo of  Dawn on 22nd June 2016
Jon showed us a method of calculating the height of this tree by using a home-made clinometer. This measured the angle from the person holding the clinometer to the top of the tree, then measuring the distance in metres from the person to the tree, drawing a triangle and then using a process of  mathematical calculations. Our calculations gave a height of 20.7 metres high though we should really try this again a few times for accuracy.
The girth of this tree was measured by Mike with the help of some children and came to 3.9 metres.
We gathered round the tree and felt its bark.
distinctive bark of the Dawn Redwood
Next stop was the weeping silver birch - another ornamental tree. When it was planted or why is another piece of research for someone.
weeping silver birch on 2nd April without its leaves.
The photo above (taken with permission of the parent)  is of a girl I spoke to in early April who explained this was her favourite tree as it felt like a spirit tree. In June, with the tree in leaf, it creates a small sheltered area where I have seen people sitting and enjoying the space. See below.
The same weeping silver birch on 22nd June 2016
We also looked at the nearby row of native silver birch trees. These were planted approximately 8 to 10 years ago (I am guessing) when the bowls cabins had been installed  for the bowls club that was active at the time. The cabins were (and still are) rather unattractive so the silver birch trees and the hedgerow bushes were planted to green the space and create a visually more pleasing view.
This row of silver birch partially hides the cabins
It seems that silver birch trees can be used to improve the soil for other plants. Its deep roots bring up nutrients into the tree and leaves and these are recycled onto the soil surface when the tree sheds its leaves. Of course other deciduous trees do the same, so I have yet to find out what is special about the nutrients in silver birch leaves. A distinctive feature of silver birch is the bark, which peels away like paper, making it easier to identify the tree.

To be continued . . .


Most of our regular park users will be delighted to see that work has started to resurface the worst sections of path in Mayow Park. The last major work on sections of path was completed in July 2011; it went from the Recreation Road entrance and the holm oak (the climbing tree)  along past the children's playground and then stopped. It included wooden boards for neat path edging and was very much appreciated. The path was now safer for toddlers and young children learning to ride their bikes.
That was only a fraction of the remedial path work identified but it was very costly. Officers from Lewisham Greenscene had worked hard to find sufficient funds while Glendale discussed with Friends of Mayow Park what was proposed and which stretch of path. Glendale officers organised the works and supervised contractors.  We knew it would be a long time before we would see works to other stretches of path. So this week brought good news when contractors and their vehicles arrived to start work on the path going east from the children's playground.  Other stretches of path will also be resurfaced - look out for the yellow marks at the worst locations.  But there is not enough funding to do the whole park.
Clear signage for park usres

contractor vehicles at the ready

Path edging timber clearly visible on the left of the path

Close-up of path timber edging

Clear view of  curving timber edging board showing path outline