The ill-informed and tiresome calls from the borough’s third-rate politicians of “cut the grass” ignores modern and ecologically sound approaches to the maintenance of our parks and public open spaces. “No mow May” is a thing, and has been shown to work to improve the biodiversity in our parks.
But something is going on in Croydon’s parks in 2023 which goes far beyond a short period each year of benign neglect. What’s happening is the wholesale abandonment of many of the borough’s parks, after a decade of council budget cuts and two years of bankruptcy in the borough.
Croydon’s once proud parks department, full of hard-working and skilled horticulturalists, has been winnowed out to such an extent that it barely exists at all.
It’s not just the grass that isn’t being cut. Flower beds have been left untended, in some cases since before the first covid lockdown in 2020. Bins in some of the busier parks are emptied, but never as often as they should be.
Visitors to Wandle Park last Sunday for the Mela arrived to discover the unwelcoming sight of rubbish spilling out of the unemptied bins following the previous day’s Pridefest staged in the same park. And these were both supposedly highlight “Borough of Culture” events.
Yet no one at the council had twigged that the bins might need emptying in between them…
Yet wherever you go around the borough this summer, there’s a sad shabbiness about our once prized open spaces – and there’s nothing “chic” about it. Haling Grove, which used to be full of colour in mid-summer, doesn’t appear to have had any bedding plants for a couple of years.
We have reported previously on the neglected state of Norwood Grove, at the northern edge of the borough, and in the south, off Gravel Hill, the rundown state of Heathfield House and its abandoned lawns and gardens.
Now, the hard-working volunteers of another Croydon park’s friends group have expressed their dismay this week over the way their favourite park, Grangewood, is being allowed to fall into a chronic state of disrepair.
The discovery of the ashes of a burnt memorial bench was reported on the Friends’ group’s social media.
“It was saddening to see that another bench had been set alight in Grangewood Park… As you can see, nothing is left of it, and it was still smouldering when I took this picture in the overgrown sunken garden.
“It was particularly upsetting because it was one of two commemorative benches paid for by The Friends of Grangewood Park with support from the councillors’ community ward budgets.
“The destroyed bench was in memory of local people who lost their lives during covid, and I spent much time arranging, organising delivery and installation.
“It is soul-destroying for us all to see the park in this state and the increasing levels of vandalism. Another bench in the playground was set on fire recently, along with other fires around the park and graffiti…
“We have raised many issues over the years, but this last year the park suffered particularly from a general lack of TLC.
“The sunken garden is massively overgrown, and so is the entrance to the park at Wharncliffe gates, when in the past, these used to be always maintained because of the planting of seasonal bedding.
“The paths are overgrown, shrub beds uncut, and brambles and thistles are taking over.
“We all love butterflies, not so much the rats which I keep seeing, but this isn’t how formal spaces in the park should look. There has to be a balance, and the balance isn’t right, which is why it is attracting a destructive element.”
Read more: Locals concerned that Perry plans to sell listed Norwood Grove
Read more: Council’s once-prized listed building Heathfield House left to rot
Read more:Cressey College looks to be on the rocks over park and Ofsted
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