Thursday, 17 November 2016


People who have lived in the locality for some years will remember Dr Hilary Graver, known to others as Mrs Hilary Jarrett. Long-time members of  Friends of Mayow Park (FOMP) have very fond memories of her.
Hilary became actively involved with the Friends of Mayow Park in 1996 when it was still known as Mayow Park Users’ Group and she remained very active until 2014. As Chair of FOMP for 5 years and Treasurer of the group for much longer she steered the group through a time when many parks were in decline, her aim always to ensure that Mayow would be a much-loved and well-used park. She pushed for the name change to Friends of Mayow Park in the late 1990s.
In the early days the Friends of Mayow Park held their quarterly meetings in the homes of members. Hilary knew many people in the community and it was not long before she arranged with the then Head of Forest Hill School toallow FOMP to  meet at his school and for him to participate in our meetings. This arrangement continued until Peter Walsh retired as the school Head.

She believed in the importance of trees to the environment. In Mayow Park, she cared about the magnificent ancient oak trees, which provide a home for many invertebrates, birds and mammals. She, along with husband John and neighbour Bruce, measured the girth of every oak tree and registered the results with the Woodland Trust.

The custom of tree dressing, which takes place annually on the first weekend in December, was embraced by Hilary as a positive community activity in Mayow Park for a number of years, with one particular oak tree being chosen, its long horizontal branch no more than 8 feet above the ground.
Hilary (on right) at Tree Dressing December 2008  © Heather Mallinder

As well as celebrating the ancient trees of Mayow Park, Hilary was keen to get involved with tree planting. In January 2010 the Friends planted a larch, a deciduous conifer, in recognition of the celebration of Tu B’shevat, the Jewish New Year for trees. Hilary was there, spade at the ready, to make sure the tree was well-planted.
Planting a larch behind the bowls green January 2010 © Emma Tarling 
The first fruit trees were planted in January  2012. Sponsors were invited to come forward to select heritage varieties to buy. Hilary chose and planted Lane’s Prince Albert apple. It was a variety she knew from her childhood. For the next three years, from spring to autumn, she and John came once a week to deliver 20 litres of water to the roots of the tree, to ensure it would grow strong and healthy. Eleven fruit trees were planted in 2012. Since then the orchard has expanded to eighteen trees.

Lane’s Prince Albert apple tree © A Sheridan
Many people like the ornamental, old Victorian drinking water fountain which is a feature in the park. Long ago it went out of use, its lead pipes filled with concrete and the drinking cups removed. There were some who wanted it restored and Hilary took on the task to find out if this would be feasible. She contacted the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association to find out if it would be possible to apply for grants to restore it. She met representatives from that Charity and all concluded that it would it would not be possible. Undaunted, Hilary decided that the way forward would be the installation of a new, modern drinking water fountain, as near as possible to the Victorian one. Her communications with the Drinking Fountain Association went back to 2009.

Fountain with new plaque installed 2014 © A Sheridan
Hilary wanted the public to be aware that the fountain was a contribution from the Friends of Mayow Park with a grant from the Drinking Fountain Association so she ordered this plaque which was installed by Fred Baverstock and his colleague,  Steve.

Plaque located behind drinking fountain © A Sheridan

Another campaign she led comes to mind: the installation of the bowls cabins on the green so that the bowls club could vacate the pavilion which was in urgent need of refurbishment. Hilary was furious that FOMP had not been fully consulted about plans to install shipping containers between the bowls green and tennis courts. Thanks to her negotiations with Lewisham and her local campaigning, the cabins were finally located in their present position, though she always viewed their current location as the lesser of two evils.

Mayow Park was awarded its first Green Flag in 2011in recognition that the park had reached a certain standard of maintenance and that the local community was actively involved in caring for the park.
October 2011 first Green Flag for Mayow Park  © A Sheridan 
The dangerous state of the paths was a serious cause for concern and Hilary campaigned hard for improvements. From time to time paths were temporarily repaired, but this was never enough. The first genuine improvement was the complete resurfacing of the path parallel to the children’s playground. Sadly, Hilary did not live to celebrate the resurfacing of most of the paths, a task completed in Summer 2016.  
New path towards children's playground July 2011 © A Sheridan
Emma, a former member of FOMP, moved away from Sydenham a few years ago. She remembers Hilary’s role in Mayow Park. 
"I first became involved with FOMP at the end of 2008 as I was concerned with the state of the children's play area. At that time, the Mayor of London launched a competition to encourage communities to vote for funding to improve a selection of local parks. 
I remember standing outside the Co-op with Hilary on cold winter days speaking to people about the future of Mayow Park and what was desperately needed to encourage more use. This competition created an awareness of our park within our neighbourhood and a steady flow of funding by other schemes and charities followed, giving us the opportunity to make those necessary improvements for the benefit of everybody in the community." 
An article in the Newsshopper January 2009 about  this competition quotes Hilary:
"The park has been badly neglected and has been going downhill since the 70s. All it needs is some tender loving care but it needs the money to do this. Most people want the paths improved, the restoration of the pavilion, and a park keeper so everything can be supervised." 
Unfortunately Mayow Park did not win that competition though one in a neighbouring borough did.

"Although I had known Hilary for many years, it was a pleasure to work with her when she was Chair of the Friends of Mayow Park and I was Cabinet Member for Lewisham’s Customer Services. Hilary’s commitment to improving the park and ensuring the services it received from Lewisham Council’s parks maintenance were second to none. Her tenacity with issues is expressed in the installation of the new drinking water fountain which was much needed as Mayow Park’s Victorian one had been taken out of use due to its original lead pipes." 

It is easy to list the many activities Hilary championed in Mayow Park but it does not in any way convey the amount of documents that had to be read, letter writing, telephone calls (before emails became common place) and meetings that Hilary would have attended to ensure that whilst on her “watch” Mayow Park was the best it could be. 
Hilary remained very active until 2014. Even after that she could be seen taking a daily stroll round the park.
She died on 29th July 2016 but her dedication to the park will remain a lasting tribute.

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