Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Park (new) Life!

The new and improved West Hackney Recreation certainly isn't short of seating

 This isn’t the first time Mumsnet Hackney has championed Hackney’s parks. I don’t mind admitting, however, that I never thought my park of the hour would be West Hackney Recreation Ground, despite it being my most local of Hackney’s 57 green spaces. In my experience this particular park has only ever been populated by flocks of seagulls and those who enjoy daytime drinking, thus ensuring my continued and rather begrudging avoidance. So to suddenly see it closed for refurbishment (as the result of receiving a lottery grant) with the appointment of a new park keeper and a re-opening party set for this weekend had me buzzing with excitement, coupled with some apprehension. After all, surely no amount of money can change a park's inhabitants. 

One of 2 new mini play areas at each end of the park

The origins of this 1 hectare of land is that it was formerly the graveyard of St Paul's Church, which explains the, now gleaming white, tombstones that surround it on 3 sides. The site was recently awarded £670k Lottery grant to fund major improvements to both the Recreation Ground and the area surrounding the church. St Paul’s Church provides not only a place of worship and Church Hall facilities, but it hosts the vibrant Stoke Newington Farmers’ market every Saturday and also provides a venue for North London Action for Homeless, offering twice weekly sit down meals for the local homeless community. So it seems fitting that this essential community hub receives a well earned makeover, courtesy of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Labyrinth 
I caught up with newly appointed park keeper Sam Silverlock, for a tour of the array of newly constructed features and also find out what brought him to this exciting new project. Sam, a Stoke Newington local, previously worked in Ecotheraphy, providing counselling and rehabilitation through working with and cultivating the Earth and has firm ideas about the purpose of this new green space. Specifically, he wants to make sure that people using the space will have fun, be able to socialise and make friends and create not only a developed space for people to use, but a haven for wildlife also. These attributes the park now boasts that will promote all of these aims include 2 mini play areas (a slide, stepping stones and wobble boards) a stone labyrinth, which is like a maze but drawn out in stone on the ground, an entire circle of park benches (pictured above), an outdoor mini gym and an ecological meadow. The Police have also pledged to address anyone using the park for less desirable pursuits by including the area in their regular patrols.

Here I will be completing 50 daily chin ups

The re-opening party this week with the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney and Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe, among others due to attend, should hopefully be the first of many events set to take place in the park. Already the church has created a fantastic archive of local stories (click HERE for more info) and are keen to recruit anyone who’s interested in researching the history of people’s grave stones surrounding the park. So if you’re looking to get involved in fresh exciting local project or just looking for somewhere to host a picnic then do pop along and if the weather doesn’t hold the Church offers free gazebo hire. You can’t say fairer than that.  For more information about this Saturday's re-opening   party just click HERE

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