A good idea and a ‘can do’ approach have propelled a group of supporters of a Shepherds Bush park from sketchy concept to active community body in the space of two years.
Wendell Park Gardening Friends – winner of the ‘Improving Our Environment’ award in the 2019 H&F Civic Honours – was set up in August 2017.
It’s an independent voluntary group backed by Hammersmith & Fulham Council. Its aim is simple: improve Wendell Park for the whole community to enjoy and make the most of a treasured green space.
Having launched with the help of a successful H&F Hive crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to replant the park’s south border, the group has gone from strength to strength with monthly maintenance gatherings, demonstrating how united community resolve can improve people’s everyday lives.
A user-friendly website keeps everyone in touch, and volunteers who give their time to improve the park are always being thanked by locals, appreciative of their work.
“I’ve been so impressed by the work of the Friends, and the group was a very worthy winner of the 2019 Improving Our Environment section of the Civic Honours,” said Cllr Wesley Harcourt, H&F Cabinet Member for the Environment.
“This group is an inspirational template for others keen to set up their own support networks to look after and improve the community assets we all value.”
Working closely with the council has seen immediate results after Wendell Park secured Green Flag status for the first time ever. H&F Council’s biodiversity and horticultural officer has also been assisting the group’s endeavours.
How it started
The Friends, born out of a discussion thread on the social media site Nextdoor, harnessed the generosity and support of sponsors including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Growing A Greener Britain.
Local resident Caroline MacMillan from the Friends said that the Civic Honour was recognition for everyone who had worked so hard in Wendell Park over the past couple of years, from the volunteer gardeners to those who have donated more than £10,000 to fund improvements.
“This is an award for everyone who’s helped us make the park even greener,” she said. “That includes businesses who’ve given us equipment, the 28th Hammersmith Scouts, who planted bulbs, the pupils of Wendell Park School and H&F Council.”
She said that the Friends had drawn up a three-year plan of planting, including trees, bushes and plants, and set up a five-person steering committee to co-ordinate work.
A lot of non-native snowberry bushes have been dug up and replaced, while the local scouts helped plant more than 1,000 bulbs.
Volunteers gather on the first Saturday of each month, rain or shine, from 10am-noon to plant, weed and maintain the borders and beds. “Then it’s usually off to the pub,” said Caroline.
Texts and emails prompt the main core of helpers, though everyone is welcome to turn up and assist.
“The key word is ‘gardening’,” Caroline added. “We want to concentrate on the beds. People often stop and chat and thank us, which is really heartwarming.”
Volunteers have improved the park – roughly the size of seven football pitches – creating areas of beauty, with impressive herbaceous borders which encourage insects and wildlife.
The Friends aim to be the principal forum for all park users to contribute ideas and time to broaden further the numbers enjoying the space.
Membership of the Friends is a simple one-off lifetime subscription of £5, although larger donations are welcome from those who can afford it.
Now Caroline is assisting Tim Corn who is setting up a similar Friends group for Cathnor Park.
Wendell Park, bounded by Wendell Road, Hartswood Road and Cobbold Road, Hammersmith, was established in the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign and falls within the Ravenscourt and Starch Green conservation area.
It was created as a green space to serve new roads built on church land in the 1890s.
“This is a community project, and our aim is to make the park a better place for everyone to enjoy,” added Caroline. “It’s worth the hard work digging, planting and watering to know that our efforts will be enjoyed for years to come.”
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