Changing Mertion; Changing Plans; Changing Lives
Merton is one of a country-wide network of 45 Groundwork Trusts. These Trusts are charitable organisations set up to bring about environmental, social and economic renewal in areas of industrial decline. The main services we provide are landscape design, community and youth development work, and we carry out a huge variety of projects, ranging from the creation of children's play areas to running environmental education campaigns covering poetry writing and making bird boxes. We have operated in the borough of Merton since 1996.
|Clapper bridge, Wandle Park
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Now the improvements have been completed, the river channel once again follows the historic boundary between the Parishes of Wimbledon and Mitcham. The channel has been re-connected to the Wandle at the "upstream" end and this ensures a constant flow of water. More importantly, the concrete river walls have been broken out and the banks re-profiled to follow their original gently sloping form. Alongside the new bridges and footpaths that have been installed, the restored channel now provides a very picturesque feature in Colliers Wood.
|Mastplan for park restoration
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As well as looking more attractive, the restored channel is now a much better habitat for wildlife. The Environment Agency are monitoring the results of the improvement works closely, and in their most recent survey (carried out last September) they discovered that over 20 different families of invertebrates have taken up residence in the channel since the work finished. Some of the species discovered include water shrimps, and the larvae of damson and dragon-flies. A good indication of the great improvement in water quality which has occurred is that those species found there previously which were indicators of poor water quality or pollution are no longer present.
We have also created a new reed-bed next to the channel. The primary function of the reed-bed is to trap and treat pollution entering the park via the surface water sewer (and which formerly went straight into the channel). There is, therefore, always a "skim" of oil on the surface. However the reed-bed is still an attractive landscape feature in its own right, and once established, will provide a home for a variety of wildlife. A pair of herons has recently begun visiting regularly. There have been a few "teething-problems" with the new reed-bed last year, particularly concerning a minor pollution incident last autumn, however those reeds which had died back naturally are now showing strong signs of re-growth. There may be a need for some additional replacement planting.
During the course of the project Groundwork Merton set up a "Friends" group and this has been a very useful forum for local people during the development and implementation of the scheme. Keith Allen is a founding member of the Friends group, and explains their purpose as follows:
"To be a Friend of Wandle Park means, I suppose, to care for our local environment. Then to visit the park, note its failings, enjoy its successes, and help where we can e.g. with "clean-up" days. Wandle Park is now surrounded by new housing developments, and all Friends need to work together with all other agencies concerned to keep improving the park in the face of this increasing pressure from the growing local population. This effort will be essential for us to retain this pleasant green park for all to see and enjoy."
We are hoping that the Friends group will continue to help with the ongoing development of Wandle Park, particularly as this year we will be complementing this first phase of the work by implementing a landscape contract. This contract will include refurbishments to the children's play area, and also new gates and railings to the Merton High Street boundary, as well as general improvements and replanting to the other park boundaries. If you would like any information on this, or to help Keith and the other Friends look after Wandle Park, then please contact Sadaf Mahmood or myself at Groundwork Merton.
As a small local charity we are also always looking for general sponsorship in the form of donations towards specific projects or even gifts of materials. We also sometimes need practical help with our smaller projects! If you would like to find out more about Groundwork Merton, or about any of our other schemes, then please write to me at our new offices at 14, The Apprentice Shop, Merton Abbey Mills, Watermill Way, London SW19 2RD. You can also contact us by phone on 020 8540 5533.