Friday, 5 May 2017

A story of a gate pillar

Have you  ever looked at the gate pillars in Mayow Park? There are four entrance gateways to the park but only three with brick pillars.  Some are a piece of Victorian history. But some pillars are replacements. 
Here are pictures of the gate pillars near the cafe. One of the pillars had to be replaced  around 2013 when  major work was being carried out the the pavilion building which now houses the cafe. The second pillar is older.  
Gateway near cafe, left hand pillar (when viewed from within park)

The other pillar near cafe viewed from the street
Take a look at the gateway at the Silverdale entrance. One of the two pillars there looks older than the other. Does anyone know the history?
Silverdale gate pillar [1]

Silverdale gate pillar [2]

There is one entrance with a difference: the park gates opposite De Frene Road. The gates here are attached to a metal post. Does anyone know why there is no brick pillar here? If you do, please share this information.

If you walk to the south-west corner of the park and to the gate pillars at the entrance to Recreation Road you will see that this pair of pillars look slightly wider than at the other two gates. You will see that the pillar on the left (when viewed from within the park) has suffered with time and the elements, its red brickwork crumbling like chalk dust through weathering. Look at the other pillar and you would be correct in assuming it has been repaired and not for the first time.
The most recent repair has just been completed. The damage to this pillar happened on 22nd July 2016 when a grounds maintenance tractor towing grass mowing blades on a trailer hit the pillar. The vehicle was on its way to mow the grass in the oval sports area but it did not complete its mission on this particular day.
Damage to pillar 22 July 2016
photo Suzanne Thompson
As far as we know, from eye witness accounts, while entering the park the tractor driver had to swerve suddenly to avoid a dog running across his path. As a result the towing unit caught one of the pillars and caused sufficient damage to make the whole structure unsafe. Thanks to one of the Friends of Mayow Park Facebook group who posted this photo minutes after the accident.
Luckily the dog was safe and no-one was hurt.  The gate itself was rescued as was the capstone and much of the pillar was removed to avoid danger to the public.
Managers from Glendale (the company that manages most of the parks in the borough on behalf of Lewisham) ensured that Heras fencing was installed so that the entrance can be locked in the evenings.

Heras fencing in place

Communications between Glendale managers and Friends of Mayow Park followed. We were assured that efforts would be made to seek out the same type of red Victorian bricks or something similar. Progress was made, a source of these bricks was found and it looked like the pillar would be repaired before the end of 2016.
The repair was delayed for  sensible reasons;  major renovation works were about to take place to the tennis courts.  These tennis courts were rather dilapidated with a very poor ground surface. Renovation would mean heavy vehicles carrying building machinery and materials going in and out of the park from the Recreation Road gate. It made sense to delay repairs until building works to the tennis courts were completed. 
And so it was that the rebuild of the pillar was put on hold until April 2017.
10th April 2017 preparing the pillar as work commences
12th April

12th April, work is well underway
Good progress 13th April
18th April
Top course of bricks completed 20th April

At the time of writing, the pillar is almost finished and the gate has been reinstalled. All that is left to complete the work is to top the pillar with the capstone, which has been carefully stored at another park for the duration.











The capstone is extremely heavy and needs a suitable vehicle with lifting gear.  A photo will follow when this task is complete.
The gate looks lovely again. Well done to Glendale for sourcing suitable bricks and to the maintenance crew who took such care in rebuilding it. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Big Dig success on 22 April 2017

The Big Dig day arrived and our core volunteers wondered if other park users would join us in planting edibles in the herb bed.  The Big Dig is an annual event organised by Capital Growth with over 40 community spaces in London taking part:  http://www.capitalgrowth.org/bigdig/   
Poster for our event.
Our group met at the herb bed, part of Capital Growth community garden 797.  Within minutes a new volunteer arrived.
Before long more new volunteers joined us, including children aged between 3 and 5.We set up our table with sign-in sheet along with all the plants and seed packets.
Our table with pots and leaflets and sign-in sheet
Our main focus today was the herb bed, which had been weeded by Nature's Gym volunteers just over two weeks ago. Since then the bindweed contained in this plant bed has regrown so we had to be careful to pull out as much as we could.

We had a plant pot containing a lavender plant, another pot with sage cuttings, 20 mini hand-made paper pots with young broad bean plants, some potato tubers (Alouette variety) which had been chitted, a plant pot with evening primrose and Welsh poppy. The seed packets contained nigella, marigold, Mexican marigold, sunflower seeds and more.
The first task for Mike and Robert was to dig a trench for our 6 potato tubers and to plant 20 broad beans (variety Aquadulce Claudia).
We used some our own home-made compost in the trench and the bean holes. Robert dug the trench.

Potato variety Alouette 


Potatoes in trench on a bed of compost














Sandra raked soil over the potatoes.
Mike cleared an area for planting the broad beans and the photo below shows  the finished result:

                                                                                                 










Kareem planted the evening primrose and Welsh poppy (no photo though) before moving on to the fruit bed and weeding around the raspberry canes.
Our banner was unfurled on the ground and two of our younger helpers wanted to pose for a photo by standing on the corners.


Two young helpers posed for a photo on our banner
Christopher and his mum Emily (no photo, blame the photographer!) worked very hard digging up as much bindweed as they could. Christopher was very good at spotting the bindweed and its roots. They sowed a variety of different seeds including marigolds and Nigella. They made a number of journeys to the toilets by the cafe to fetch water in plastic bottles and water the area. Meanwhile another young helper arrived and he joined in the watering.
Two dads and two boys went to the mini wildflower meadow to sow packs of wild flower seeds and had fun watering them in. (Again no photos. Maybe one of the dads has some?)
After two hours with a mix of hard work and and social chat with other volunteers it was time to pack up. Look for the herb bed and all the things that were planted. We had a lovely morning and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  I hope some of our young helpers will remember to bring watering cans or plastic bottles to water the plants they sowed or planted.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

NATURE’S GYM3 – THE HERB BED

The Friends of Mayow Park look after a plant bed of mainly herbs in front of the cafe in a space that once contained neglected and sad-looking roses. Look for the sign saying Capital Growth Community Garden 797 to see the area. It is just one edible garden of many across London that Capital Growth support. See http://www.capitalgrowth.org/ 
Grow Mayow behind the cafe is another Capital Growth site. 
 Now the former rose bed grows herbs with park users  invited to pick some leaves to smell, taste and take home to use.

On 6th April Nature's Gym volunteers worked hard to remove 'weeds' growing in this space; in other words plants that are not meant to grow there. 

Digging up willow herb plants
There were large quantities of willowherb plants to remove, despite a major cull last autumn. How the willowherb got there in the first place is something of a mystery as it is not widespread within the park.
Another invasive plant in the bed is bindweed. Any piece of broken root can re-grow and the roots are rather brittle, breaking easily. This growing area received a large amount of fresh soil when we started the herb bed and there is a suspicion that the bindweed came in the soil. We don’t put any plants from this bed into our compost bins as the bins use ‘cold composting’ so persistent weeds are not destroyed.

Clumps of blue Forget-me-Not in flower

There were also plenty of other wild plants – mainly wood avens, cleavers and grasses. All of these are attractive but compete for space with other plants that have been intentionally planted such as strawberries, chives, mint, lemon balm, oregano,  rosemary and more. We decided the Forget-me-Nots could stay as they are non-competitive plants with shallow roots and beautiful pale-blue flowers. They will be removed when they have finished flowering. 


Thank you Nature's Gym volunteers for the hard work you put in to clear the ground ready for new planting. 

Our plan is to plant edibles at our Big Dig event on 22nd April. Potatoes and broad beans, lavender and sage are ready to go into the ground. We have some packs of wild flower mixes to sow as well. New volunteers are welcome to come and help. Why not join us? 

Monday, 17 April 2017

NATURE'S GYM HELP OUT 2: NATURE CONSERVATION

This post follows on from the previous one. While the minibeast mansion was being rebuilt, other Nature's Gym volunteers chose to work in the wooded area close to the cafe gate, a space which is normally locked for safety and wildlife conservation.
The last time any nature conservation work took place there was at least seven years ago. Volunteers  at that time had built a stag beetle loggery within the space. With the passing of time ivy and self-sown tree saplings had grown up without check until it was impossible to see into this area. Nature can look after itself but nature conservation activities give it a helping hand by maintaining some areas to encourage specific wildlife.
Our volunteers now had to cut away a lot of undergrowth just to enter through the gate, but the stag beetle loggery was still there.

Stag beetle loggery after undergrowth was thinned
They cut back some of the growth and created areas of dappled light, where some sunlight could shine onto the woodland floor and allow shade-loving plants to grow. All the vegetation that had been cut back was piled into a corner to create another wildlife habitat.

Three  of volunteers (see one at the back)
 Our volunteers clearly  enjoyed the challenge to make a difference to our wildlife.  And what a joy - a robin came to visit. If you look at the photo below carefully you may just be able to spot the little visitor.
Can you spot the camouflaged robin?

NATURE'S GYM HELP OUT1: MINIBEAST MANSION

We were delighted to welcome back Nature's Gym on 6th April 2017. Nature's Gym volunteers have worked with Friends of Mayow Park for a number of years. Over the years they have helped in the Triangle beds and in the woodland adjacent to the hard standing (close to the orchard). In the woodland they created the log circle for story telling and where school groups can meet.
They also built the minibeast mansion back in 2012 with a stack of pallets stuffed with twigs. This structure was looking rather tired and in need of renovation. Have any visitors to Mayow Park ever noticed it?

Two of the volunteers chose to work on the minibeast mansion. We have not surveyed which invertebrates have made their home there although there is evidence that spiders have set up residence in some parts. I could not find a photo of this tired-looking structure to post here but as improvement was certainly needed.

The volunteers started by removing the  top two pallets and a higgledy muddle of twigs  poking out of the spaces in the pallets. They realigned the pallets and got to work cutting a large number of hollow bamboo canes which would form part of the new home for any invertebrates who like homes in hollow tubes.
Our work is finished for the day
When it was time to stop, it clearly looked much better but there is more work to be done to finish the whole structure and turn it into a des-res. Who knows, we may be able to get it to look like an interesting and attractive feature? See this photo below from elsewhere.
Hoping our structure can look as impressive as this in the future.
It was disappointing that just three days later I found that ALL the bamboo canes had been removed and carefully taken to the story circle. It was clear that this was not intended as an act of vandalism but some children exercising their curiosity and creativity. A willing volunteer came to the rescue and spent up to one hour collecting all the canes, to relocate them back in the mansion.


I love the idea that children can explore this small piece of woodland. Mayow Park has a number of hidden places to explore, to offer inquisitive young minds a chance allow their imagination to develop through all sorts of play activities, but they need to understand what this structure is and why it was built.

 I HAVE A SPECIAL REQUEST TO  all parents of children who are allowed to play in that space, whether supervised or allowed to play freely.  Parents, could you explain to your children that volunteers spent time building the structure for wildlife and that they can help to look after it. Would any children like to help us finish of the mansion?
If interested,  contact Friends of Mayow Park on: friendsofmayowpark@ymail.com

CUCKOO FLOWER IN THE ORCHARD

Spring 2016 and an unusual flower was seen growing in the orchard. Where had it come from? What was it? Why had it not been spotted before?
Normally the orchard, along with other grass areas in Mayow Park, has its first mowing in March. But early 2016 was very damp and the ground was waterlogged. Any vehicle trying to mow would have got bogged down in the heavy clay. This was fortunate for Lady's Smock (cardamine pratensis), also called cuckoo flower, which likes damp grassland. A member of the cabbage family, it flowers from March to early June. It had not been spotted before because the mowing regime for amenity grassland in the park prevented it from growing in its natural habitat.

According to The Wildlife Trusts  http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/ladys-smock:
Only 1,600 hectares of floodplain meadows are left within the whole of the UK, in a landscape which was abundant with this habitat. Cuckoo flowers, once common, are therefore becoming a rarer sight. The Wildlife Trusts look after many meadow and wetland habitats for the benefit of local wildlife and are working closely with farmers, landowners and developers to promote wildlife-friendly practices in these areas.

This plant is unusual in the borough of Lewisham.  There followed negotiations followed with Lewisham Greenscene and with Glendale (the contractors who manage the park on behalf of Lewisham) and a map of the site containing the flowers was drawn up.

 
 As from early this year it was finally confirmed that mowing the grass in the orchard would be delayed until the end of May to allow the plants to flower and set seed. So don't despair if the grass in the orchard looks unkempt - it is intentional and not an oversight.
Thank you to park users who identified the plant and to Lewisham and Glendale for agreeing this change.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

LOOKING FOR BATS IN THE NIGHT

The evening was perfect for a bat walk; mild with only a gentle breeze and plenty of flying insects in the moonlit dusk. Friends of Mayow Park had arranged another visit by bat expert Dr Iain Boulton to lead this popular event.
Tree silhouette against moonlit sky
Photo: V Hero
The date was 31st March 2017, with a bright new moon, a clear sky and trees silhouetted against distant lights. In urban London  it never gets completely dark at night.  Around 70 people (including 17 children) gathered in Mayow Park hoping to see and hear bats.

Iain (out of sight) gives brief intro to bats
photo:V Hero
Dr Iain Boulton ( he answers to Iain) explained some facts about bats and how they use eco-location to locate and catch their prey. He brought along his bat detectors and explained how to use them before leading us along the path from the cafe to Recreation Road.
Heading off to find bats
Photo: V Hero
Children shone their torches or held the bat detectors pointing towards the tree tops. The park looked like a fairy-tale land, very magical. We saw very few bats and those we saw or heard were near the Recreation Road gate. 
It is quite early in the season so we can all keep an eye out at dust in the park over the coming months to see bats.
Iain has offered to lead another walk in September when we may see more of these wonderful flying mammals.

Next time we could try a circular route round the park as there are wooded areas right round the park including behind the trim trail and older children's space.

End of walk and about to leave the park
Photo: V Hero