In the 1960s, Harrow Council built these structures to be used as a Crazy Golf course. The business never opened commercially, although some people have told us that they remember bringing their own clubs and balls to play a round.
The area was never maintained, and became a derelict and overgrown site mostly used for antisocial purposes, as shown in the smaller pictures. Broken glass, beer cans, barbeques, graffiti and other unsavoury rubbish just made it a nasty place to visit in the otherwise beautiful Roxbourne Park.
When Friends of Roxbourne Park was first mooted in 2015, some of the answers to our initial questionnaire suggested wildflowers, fruit trees and planted areas, to encourage wildlife but also for the benefit of everyone. Our 5 year plan of park projects brought all these things together with the idea of a Community Orchard on this site. And so we started looking around for ways to take the idea forward.
FoRP is well known for planting and nurturing trees in the park and the Nature Reserve, and we made contact with the London Orchard Project to see what they could do. Eventually, at the end of 2018 they offered us free fruit trees to be collected and planted as soon as possible! We had to get moving!
And so the work began. We had to cut down a lot of branches, bushes and undergrowth as a start. Then we hired John Donnelly and his mini-digger and dumper truck, to break up the concrete and place it to form the base of a sunny bank for bees and other insects to nest in, in due course. It took 4.5 days to clear all the brambles, tree stumps, hazards and bases, and there was still work to do!
But time, tide and rising sap wait for no man, so we had to get planting the trees before the surrounding ground was really ready.
We advertised for help, and loads of people turned up on a Saturday morning with shovels, rakes and enthusiasm! Ages ranged from over 80 to just 5, which showed the amount of interest there was in the project. Tea and biscuits by FoRP, rounded off a brilliant morning when 9 apple and pear trees were planted.
What’s left to do? you may ask. Well, those piles of soil need to be moved to fill in the holes where the bases were excavated, and we estimate then we will need another 20 tonnes of soil to cover over the bee banks. Bees don’t nest in soil, though, so we will also need a considerable quantity of sand, which is the recommended environment. Once those ground works have been done, we hope to plant some wildflower beds, seasonal bulbs and soft fruit shrubs, more fruit trees, and create an area with benches for people to enjoy in years to come.