Something that Alice Fookes was particularly concerned about was the state of Horse Close Wood. This section of wood located right at the North Eastern end of the park, is certainly older than the Capability Brown designed section of Wimbledon Park. Brown carried out his works in 1765 while Horse Close Wood appears to have been established well before that date.
The wood was indeed in a sorry state, full of rubbish as you will find in the following paper. This was another example of the Parks Department of the London Borough of Merton and the Heritage Group working together to produce a stunning result. We first met on 21 February, 2004 and cleared the wood of rubbish and then on 2 April, we laid the path with woodchips recently left over from pollarding a number of trees in Wimbledon Park.
All of the materials we needed were made available by Merton and we completed each of the big tasks on time. Alice provided the tea which was a great incentive after spending a Saturday afternoon not on the couch watching television!
It is hoped that over the next few years, a plan will be developed for the full restoration of Horse Close Wood, which is currently choked with brambles and the trees are obscured with ivy. We would like to see a more formalized path, made of natural bedding instead of asphalt, that will allow wheelchair access to the wood. Perhaps a couple of seating areas as well and some informative placards which will help visitors understand what is in the wood.
Please help keep Horse Close Wood free of litter, it might not be your litter, but go ahead, pick it up anyway and put it in a bin.
How did I get into this mess? If I move forward, all of the brambles behind me lock into my coat. If I move left, the ones on my right grip my arm, and the same if I move right. I have a tree branch with fingers aimed at my eyes in front, and the Marks and Spencer bag I want to pick up is still a foot and a half out of reach! Maybe if I just bend really low, I can get under the danger to my eyes and do a quick lunge and I’ll get the bag. Here goes. Rrrriiipppp. Got it!
I could have been sitting in front of the TV watching the rugby, but I have to tell you that isn’t half as rewarding as having just added that M & S bag to all of the other types of rubbish currently residing in my bulging black bin bag.
It all started when Alice Fookes said to me, “Sim, we really have to do something about Horse Close Wood. The path is impossible to find and the whole wood is just full of litter.” From there, a meeting was arranged last October with Alice and Ruth Hutton of LBM Parks Department and a few other hearties from the neighbourhood, where we walked the Wood and looked at what had to be done. What had to be done was quite a lot! Car tyres of all sizes, sweet wrappers, M & S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Co-op bags and bottles. Coke bottles, wine bottles, water bottles, and then not to be outdone; cans, Coke cans, beer cans, graffiti aerosol cans, you name it: Horse Close Wood was looking after all of it.
And then there was the Trail itself. All sorts of ways into the Wood and a meandering collection of paths that sometimes led you to where you wanted to go, but more likely led you to some bramble trapped dead end. What we wanted to do was determine the True Trail, and then by pulling previously cut branches across minor trails, close them off so that the Wood and the critters that live in the Wood, have more of it to themselves, while people who would like to take a leisured stroll through the Wood, can do that with some certainty that the path will actually lead them out of the Wood at the other end.
Saturday, 21 February was the perfect day for this type of task. Cold, but not too cold and not wet or raining. About a dozen people from several residents associations showed up along with Ruth Hutton, and with black bin bags in hand we started the big clean-up. The Council had provided a large skip type trailer for us to put all of our bags in, and it was filled to overflowing. Just to cap it all, Iain Simpson and Ken Ball decided that to chuck an old broken picnic table into the trailer would be a good idea. Carefully calculated not to squash any fingers or put anybody’s back out, half a dozen chaps managed to actually get this behemoth into the trailer!
Ruth Hutton was meanwhile guiding the rest of the group in dead branch and tree moving to block certain trails. It is hoped that Ruth will be able to get some little signs on stakes that will show “Trail” and an arrow, so everybody will know where to enter the main Trail from either end. Also some stakes with just the top painted yellow so that as you take your stroll, the stakes will confirm that you are headed in the right direction and are on the True Trail.
Tea was at Alice’s house, and it was splendid! We all needed it too after a couple of hours of really hard work.