Planting wild flowers at Wandle Park

By - Tuesday 28th October, 2014

Rosie Edser joins the green crowd at the October wildflower planting event at Wandle Park

Wandle wild flower planting volunteers in action.
Photo author’s own.

For those of you who haven’t discovered the little gem that is Wandle Park, it’s a couple of stops from Centrale shopping centre on the tram. If you draw a triangle from Purley Way’s John Lewis to Reeves Corner to the Factory Lane recycling centre, it nestles unexpectedly in the middle, and there’s a small but currently free car park at the Westfield Road entrance beloved by savvy school mums who don’t want to pay for parking to pick up their children from nearby schools.

The attractive wooden play equipment is right up there with Lloyd Park’s provision for older children but if your toddler doesn’t like sandpits then they’ll be nagging you for an ice-cream after five minutes. At least you’ll be able to take them to the toilet… unless of course you’re outside the hours of the newly-opened café.

If you’re a gasping-and-scarlet-after-two-minutes kind of jogger, then the tree-lined circular path is perfect for you, but at only half a kilometre per lap it can start feeling a bit like a hamster wheel! If you want to cover any significant distance you’d be better off running the extra ten minutes to Duppas Hill, incorporating some gradients and finishing off with a burst on their outdoor gym equipment. Wandle Park has its own wooden work-out stations spaced rounds the periphery which people do actually use for painful exercises involving upper body strength – but you might find a terrier dangling from your shoe-laces before your hundredth pull-up on the monkey bars. Dogs are very much in evidence, but the owners are usually close enough by and aware enough to call them off if they’re becoming a nuisance.

What can I say? We came, we dug, we planted!

On weekend mornings the skate park fills up with dudes hanging out and doing their stunts, so you might have to take your six-year-old grandson on his bike to try out the ramps at the crack of dawn. There’s an ornamental rose garden, a band stand (which has recently been hosting an outdoor cinema), a small lake and of course the recently landscaped river banks with their scattered willow trees and gentle grassy slopes – perfect for throwing a frisbee and seldom without a couple of coats being used as goal-posts.

So on the morning of Sunday 19th October, into this tucked-away haven of nature strode I, ready to network with Croydon’s green crowd and put in a bit of hard graft at the Wandle Park Wildflower Meadow Project. I was also anticipating my sense of future pride as I pointed out to my family the colourful profusion of wild flowers I’d helped establish.

Useful but off-puttingly damp gardening gloves!
Photo author’s own.

What can I say? We came, we dug, we planted! The proportion of raking, digging and shaking soil off rootsy sods of earth to actual seed-broadcasting was about forty-five minutes to nineteen seconds on each patch but I guess that’s what planting wild flowers on stretches of grass involves. The Conservation Volunteers minibus disgorged a smorgasbord of rakes, hoes, spades and forks in all conceivable sizes as well as an unappealing trug of muddy gardening gloves – eugh, all damp! Would that be with the sweat from a previous user’s toil? There was also a delightful little row of Trangier kettle stoves for boiling up our tea-break water.

We had the satisfaction of a sweaty brow and a wholesome task completed

Now you may question whether it was the best use of time for a paid member of staff to spend his entire morning sitting in the sun feeding these antique stoves with little nuggets of wood rather than lifting a tool while the volunteers perspired and communed with seldom-used muscles… but that would be churlish! After all, we volunteers got to drink the tea and had the satisfaction of a sweaty brow and a wholesome task completed… and, anyway, he was retiring the next day. Besides, we could set our own pace anywhere between the casual ‘stand and chat about forthcoming Croydon rambles while turning the occasional forkful’ mode to human rotavator ‘doing my bit for the park in an hour then off home for a well-needed shower’.

Playground at Wandle Park.
Photo author’s own.

It was surprisingly hard to get our square-metre patches of dug earth to be randomly arranged as there seems to be some tendency deep in the human psyche to arrange such things in neat rows… but there was plenty of good-natured pointing out of any flaws in technique, and opportunities to catch up with the transition town lot or find out about community gardening, forthcoming ghost walks or the latest on the incinerator campaign.

Disappointingly it turns out the two teaspoons of seeds we lovingly scattered on each patch of soil won’t automatically produce vibrant poppies and corn flowers year after year as they’ll be competing with the grass – I gather it’s a question of annual versus perennial and probably something bulb-related, so I guess this will be a repeated event and there’ll be opportunities for you to come along another time. But if you have children, bear in mind that unless they have been bred from the cradle to regard the actual digging as fun, which will probably have involved huge amounts of allotment-visiting over many years, then it’s possibly a little optimistic to expect them to persevere with the forcing of the fork past the roots and stones into the hard untilled ground. So let them take themselves off to the tyre swings for a couple of hours while you dig and chat… and for goodness’ sake take along your own gardening gloves!

Rosie Edser

Rosie Edser

Rosie is a member of the team at Croydon Refugee Daycentre. She's a teacher of both adult English learners and (in her day job) children. She relishes the fact that her own offspring have attended a school in Croydon with over forty first languages spoken. She lives in Waddon.

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