Recreation ground reopens with ‘magnificent seven’ sculptures

Whitehorse Road Recreation Ground was reopened this week after £85,000 in Government funding was used to make “significant improvements” to the park, with locals expressing hope that it will become a safer place for people to use, and discourage the kind of anti-social behaviour it used to attract.

New welcome: some carving work in Whitehorse Road Rec, using reclaimed timber. And missing the word ‘road’ from the park’s name

Jason Perry, the part-time Mayor and full-time plastic guttering salesman, turned up to try to take the credit, and performed a duty for which he is just about competent: cutting a ribbon with a flippin’ big pair of scissors.

The ceremony was performed just a week after Perry’s Tory mates at Westminster announced their latest “get tough” measure, which would seek to prevent three or more youths gathering together… in a park.

A tree was planted and wildflower seeds scattered in the community garden, which has received a bit of a spruce up.

In September, Croydon was selected by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to receive the modest amount of funding, specifically to be used to improve parks and green spaces.

“Plans for how to spend the funds were created in partnership with local community groups and organisations,” the council propaganda department said this week, adding gratuitous political spin by suggesting that these groups in Selhurst had been “working closely” with Conservative councillor Scott Roche, Perry’s cabinet member for parks and stuff.

“The council has made it easier for everyone to enjoy the park by improving entrances and walkways, the general appearance of the park and reopening the old messroom – which will provide much-needed activity space for community groups,” said the council press release, which both got the name of the Whitehorse Road Recreation Ground wrong, and failed to state where the park is located…

There are seven “magnificent” wooden sculptures, the council press team said (missing the chance of the obvious line about the Magnificent Seven) alongside new paths. “These bespoke carvings – as well as the two new benches in the community garden – were sculpted by hand, using recycled Western Red Cedar logs that were saved from being scrap timber.”

Wooden horse: one of the sculptures dotted around the blossom-dappled park

Pupils from Elmwood Junior and Broadmead Primary schools “took part in the carving… lending a hand in making the beautiful designs come to life”, the council said.

The council press team failed to provide any images of the magnificent seven sculptures or new benches with their release.

Works have also been completed to upgrade and expand the community garden, including building a composting bay. “The new chalk wildflower meadow – completed during the ceremony – will see 25 specially-chosen species of native wildflowers bloom this year,” provided, of course, the Tory Perry doesn’t order what’s left of the parks staff to randomly cut the grass in the park when it gets a bit long, and before the wildflowers can blossom, as he did with verges and other open spaces last summer.

The council says that there are 33 new trees in the park.

There is some hope that the park will be better appreciated now. “I think it was so important to do this because some people will come and see the park looks really nice now, and they won’t want to litter in it,” was the optimistic view of an eight-year-old pupil at Elmwood Junior, Alodia Alvarino-Baeza.

Anne Crump, a member of the Friends of Whitehorse Rec, said: “We’re pleased to have the support in rejuvenating the space, because it really needed more seating. Space to sit and rest is really valuable, and the carvings are so lovely.

“This park is well-used, and we know it will be well-used in the future. We welcome more community residents to come join us in caring for the park. It’s so good for your health to be out in nature.”

Barnabas Shelbourne, the chief executive of the nearby Legacy Youth Zone, which has recently had all its council funding cut by Mayor Perry, said: “We are delighted with the rejuvenation of the Whitehorse Road park. For so long it has been a concern in regard to safety, particularly for young people and Legacy Youth Zone members.

“With the cutting back of the shrubs, painting of the hut, as well as the introduction of the sculptures, new seating and trees, it has created a really welcoming and open space that will hopefully draw families and the wider community in to use it more.”

According to the council propaganda department, Tory Mayor Jason Perry said: “Blah, blah, de blah, investment burble burble really important blah, blah, blah, community, burble, burble, community, wibble, wibble, poo.” Or something like that.

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2 Responses to Recreation ground reopens with ‘magnificent seven’ sculptures

  1. Lewis White says:

    Any investment in parks, especially when ideas come from the park users, must be good. I will pop along and have a look.

    It is a sad fact, as often reported in Inside Croydon, that the park maintenance budget has shrunk, and staff reduced to a tiny number now.

    The work is carried out by a private company, who employ the gardeners, tractor drivers and mowing staff.

    Having worked in the Parks / Engineers/ Leisure / Environment departments of three other London Borough Parks in the glory days of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, even the noughties, when Councils still had their own maintenance staff as well as tree teams and even some landscape layout teams, and decent amounts of funding ( but even then, reducing-year-on-year), I admire all those parks people older and younger, who soldier on, doing a good job, for the public, to make parks green, pleasant, safe and with play features for the children, and seats for all. It must be agonising for them to see the need, but have so little money to do things, whether impriovements, or proper maintenance .

    The National Lottery has funded many, excellent, park restoration projects in London and around the UK. Locally, at Lewisham council’s Beckenham Place Park, an 18th century lake has been re-created, and in Croydon, as far as I recall, much or all of Wandle Park’s restoration was also paid for by the Lottery.

    There is a strong case for NHS to contribute to parks, as parks are open air, natural and green– all proven to be essential for our physical and mental well being.

    A few years back, under the Croydon Conservative administration, a lot of good work was done to improve children’s playgrounds. Sadly, the subsequent repair and replacement of missing equipment has not been fully funded.

    Therein lies the rub— the funds are needed to maintain these excellent “Capital funded projects”.

    It would be good if Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt would give Croydon enough grant to enable it to maintain parks and play areas properly, and improve them too.

    I also wonder what, if anything, Labour are promising to do for parks, if they get in?

  2. Gareth Page says:

    The official press releases relating to the reopening of Whitehorse (Road) Recreation Ground fails to name the designer of the sculptures, or who did the carving, other than they were helped by local school children. Does anyone know the designer/artist?

    Since the Covid lockdowns I’ve visited many of Croydon’s green spaces and it’s obvious that 80s over-development, post-2010 austerity and the lack of political will to introduce pricing by units of alcohol have all contributed to the decline of our green spaces.

    When the council hit upon the cunning idea of offloading maintenance of parks to community groups to save money, perhaps they should also have handed over the keys so that the parks could be locked overnight.

    I’m pleased that Whitehorse Road rec has been tidied up, though I’m not sure it equates to £85000 worth of work. Four days after reopening I saw five other people in the rec, three of which were either drinking beer or carrying cans of beer

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