Did Wordsworth get it right this month: “While earth herself is adorning, This sweet May morning” or do you prefer the old adage “Cast not a clout ‘til May is out”?
Of the many wildflowers I find the umbelliferous family the most difficult to identify. Some members of this group of plants are very poisonous so it is best not to make mistakes! Among the first to flower is Queen Anne’s Lace otherwise known as Cow Parsley. It’s got a feathery leaf to distinguish it; you can find plenty alongside Averyhill Road and the south boundary of the park. The other May flowering umbel, Ground Elder, has much bigger rounded leaves, there are some nice patches around the wooden seat in Henley’s Meadow.
There will be plenty of flowers to be seen in the park this month, my favourites are Bluebell and Dandelion; why do I choose Dandelion? It’s one of the few plants that has a use for each of its parts. The roots were roasted and ground up in WW2 to make a coffee substitute; the young leaves are good in salads, the flowers make a tasty wine and the seeds are a good fun game for children. Don’t tell me you’ve never played “Dandelion clocks”! Look for Bluebells along our hedgerows and the many corners of woodland. Dandelions are our most frequent lawn weed. This month the hedgerows will be covered with the white flowers of the Hawthorn trees. The country name for this tree is “May”, hardly surprising really!
Other trees in flower this month, Beech, Oak, Sycamore, Poplar, Plane and Holly.
May is the month our bats come out of hibernation. Our park is a real hotspot, well worth the effort to come out at dusk when you can see Noctule, Serotine and both Common and Soprano Pippistrelles. Avery Hill Park is 19th in south east England for Noctule numbers. Plumstead Common is no.2! While you walk around the park; look out for any holes in the trees with a dark stain below the hole. This is the “give away” sign of a bat roost. Bird nesting holes will have no stains below them. We have 6 bat roosts around the park; you’ll see them more easily if you walk anticlockwise from the café.
Report: MEETING OF AVERY HILL PARK FRIENDS GROUP TO DISCUSS THE FUTURE OF THE WINTER GARDEN: 19 MARCH 2015
TOP TABLE: Coun Nuala Geary (chair, Friends), Coun John Fahy, deputy leader, Greenwich Council and Clive Efford, MP for Eltham.
Greenwich Council has agreed to protect Avery Hill Winter Garden after it is sold by Greenwich University.
Speaking to a packed meeting organised by Friends group and the ‘Save the Avery Hill Winter Garden’ campaign, deputy council leader Coun John Fahy said the council accepted it had a responsibility to enforce the covenants on the historic glasshouse.
He said that the covenants meant anyone buying the Winter Garden would have to guarantee public access and keep it in good condition.
“Any developer buying the site would have to recognise that the site is a listed building and that it contains Metropolitan Open Space”, he said.
He said that a full planning process would apply to any proposals from a developer but the University had said it would need to occupy the site until 2018. It would be an uphill struggle for any developer to persuade the council to depart from the current land designation; they would need the ability to recognise the historical and heritage nature of the site.
The Friends called the meeting to reflect public concern over the University’s sale of the Mansion site.
Chair of the Friends group, Coun Nuala Geary said that for more than 100 years, the Winter Garden had been an open facility, enjoyed by generations of local people.
She said: “The sale raises a great many questions for example, who is going to pay for refurbishment and repairs, will access be guaranteed and who is going to pay for its on-going maintenance, staffing and future repairs?
“Also, can improvements be made to the surrounding gardens, play area, parking, nature reserve as part of the development.”
The Friends have meetings arranged with English Heritage, who are taking a close interest in developments and council officers in which they will discuss possible ways of financing the restoration of the Winter Garden and its maintenance into the future.
Further public meetings would be called so that the council could report back on developments.
MP for Eltham Clive Efford said that there was no pressure on Greenwich to let the site go for housing in order to meet national targets, saying that these were already being met by developments elsewhere in the borough.
“It is not acceptable for the University to flog off the land for housing”, he said.
He said there was a need to enforce the covenants which had been imposed when the site was transferred to the University in 1992.
Oh to be in England now that April’s here!
If the weather’s being kind to us there should be plenty of blossom on the trees. Starting at the park café and walking anti-clockwise towards the multi use games area; look out for the cherry trees. Their bark is easy to identify as it has a pattern of horizontal lines all over it; looking like hundreds of smiles! You’ll see several of them along the path before you get to the Parks Department storage containers.
While you’re on this stretch of the path, the small area of woodland on your right was once Greenwich parks department tree nursery; gifted to the University in the 1980’s and now very much overgrown. Take a moment to look northwards along the path through the trees to your right; there is a lovely view of the Groom’s cottage at the end of the hedge avenue. Colonel North’s Stud stables are just to the left of the groom’s cottage; they are the last remaining agricultural buildings in the borough. When the University sell this land they are scheduled for demolition. In his hey-day Colonel North had 64 horses in training; the most famous was Nunthorpe who won the Jubilee stakes at Kempton Park in 1891. North would take his house guests over to Newmarket by special train and hold a private race meeting, all his horses taking part!
April is the month most of our birds will be nesting; make the most of it for it will be the only time of year the Ring Necked Parakeets won’t be screaming. They are amazingly silent when nesting! The hedges in the park are “des. res.” for nesting birds. As you walk down into the little valley formed by the Pippenhall stream keep your eyes open for nesting birds. One of the easiest to spot is the Magpie’s nest; it’s usually near the top of a tree and is roofed over with a dome of twigs. There are two other birds that build a domed nest; the Wren and the Long tailed Tit. You never know what you can spot if you’re observant! The perimeter hedges along Gray’s (the rugby) field and the southern boundary with the Uni. field and Southwood campus are great places to look.
As you wander back to the café via the path alongside the Mansion buildings, look to your right and see if you can spot the small pond just west of the Uni tower block. There is the base of a fountain in this pond; it was once the centre piece of the Winter Gardens. Walking past the Winter Gardens again, glance to your right; the clock tower you can see is on North’s riding and carriage horse stable block. Once this was the first stables to be centrally heated. There was even a Turkish Bath to cure any horse that caught a chill!
Back to the café, there’s always a hot cuppa to make sure you don’t catch a chill!!
All parks have a great history, created as public open, green spaces by visionary men and women for the people to enjoy.