Green-fingered enthusiasts have set up a gardening club in Bishop’s Park in Fulham for volunteers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.
The monthly club, run by the Friends of Bishop’s Park, held its first gathering in early March, with the next planned for Monday (1 April).
“We’re trying to help the people who run the park,” said Melanie Healy, who became co-chair of the Friends with Rowena Vaughan at the autumn AGM.
“Rowena met the council’s parks officer and the park’s head gardener to ask what the Friends of Bishop’s Park could do, and it was decided to set up the gardening club – not just for Friends, but for all park users,” said Melanie, who runs a headhunting business in the financial services sector. “We think the volunteers are out there.”
Eight volunteers – recruited by word of mouth and via a stall at the farmers’ market – turned up to the first meeting. Now the hope is that more will join the club, to keep one of the capital’s most treasured parks looking beautiful.
Melanie and Fulham-based interior designer, Rowena, both live five minutes’ stroll away and regularly walk their dogs in the park, while their children spent much of their childhood in the 22 acres.
Club members are kept up to date with news via a WhatsApp messaging group, with the full-time gardeners in the park directing the volunteers to whichever tasks are most urgent.
At the first session the have-a-go gardeners were sent to the rose garden, provided with gloves, trowels and bags, and set to work; pruning, tidying and replacing old specimens.
Cllr Wesley Harcourt, H&F Cabinet Member for the Environment, praised the initiative of the Friends of Bishop’s Park. “This is a practical and very welcome example of volunteering that will make a difference to all the users of the park,” he said.
On days following events in or near the park – for example the Boat Race, Fulham football matches or the park runs – the council’s team of contracted gardeners lose a fifth of their time to clearing up litter.
So, the Friends hope their volunteering will enable the gardeners to focus on their core activities.
“The council’s budget for maintaining the park has been flat for the past 10 years,” said Melanie, adding that she hoped the new initiative by volunteers would also help raise the park’s profile.
The next date for gardening volunteers (all welcome, whether you can only give half an hour or much longer) is on Monday (1 April) at 9.30am, meeting at the community rooms by the cafe.
The object of the Friends of Bishop’s Park is to protect and preserve this important and richly historic amenity, promoting wildlife, conserving plants and trees, and encouraging recreational use.
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