The Master Plan developed by Merton Council has three main options. Two of them (options 2 and 3) require the relocating of the Athletics Stadium to a position on the other side of the park by the Revelstoke Road entrance.
This concept impacts the residents living in Elsenham, Revelstoke Roads and Southdean Gardens and for that reason, Options 2 and 3 are rejected by the Heritage Group.
Option 1 is more favourable, but with substantial change. It is displayed below:
Master Plan Critique
First, some broad brush comments.
The whole of the parkland which comprises the Golf Club and Merton public park was purchased by Wimbledon Corporation in the autumn of 1914, just prior to the commencement of the Great War. There was controversy regarding the purchase because most of the land would be used as a golf course and with a smaller section at the north end of the park available to the public.
This ended up being a perfect combination in that the land of the Golf Club in many respects reflects the original Capability Brown concept of parkland. The Merton section was given over to sport and general recreation for the people of Merton and to date fulfils that function very well indeed.
The golf course still retains many of the great oaks of the earlier period where the Merton section has had its oaks removed long ago. In the Master Plan there is much comment about ‘restoring the Capability Brown views’, which really misses the point regarding the park being dedicated to sport. Additionally, most of the sightings project from the Revelstoke Road entrance and there are no important views to be seen from there as the ground is much lower than (say) the lake.
To remove important structures in an effort to improve a view, is mistaken, the structures provide a useful purpose.
The plan generally ignores the footfall of the park and how it functions today as a venue for sport and recreation. That this park is so popular is because it works on a human scale, it appreciates the very young children, their parents and the pursuits of the elderly.
There is a comment that the park is a patchwork of sites, and this is put forward as a negative thing and a reason for change. Well, the park has organically changed with the needs of those who use it. And it works. So why change it? Lest we forget, that the primary purpose of the park is for the residents to have a place for fun and relaxation. The park has developed to a point where I can’t think of a more successful green space in south London that achieves this more fully than Wimbledon Park.
Wimbledon Park has it all and any plan which puts that success in jeopardy should be rejected out of hand and elements of this 25 year Master Plan do just that.
The plan comprises of three options with options 2 and 3 moving the athletic stadium to a location near the Revelstoke Road entrance to the park. I have already received complaints from the residents of Elsenham, Revelstoke and Southdean Gardens and consider those views as most important, therefore options 2 and 3 are rejected.
Option 1 has some merit, however it is deeply flawed. Following is a point to point critique of this plan.
1. The lake, de-silted with wetland grasses introduced at edges. Yes, we agree the lake certainly needs tending to. For the best method of carrying out the de-silting, I would suggest looking at the Goose Lake case study at the Max Planck Institute which is outside Munich, Germany. Totally successful with minimal damage to the flora and fauna of that lake.
2. Lake embankment / dam. Repaired with public access retained. Yes, certainly needs tending to.
3. Waterfall Garden. Re-landscaped as a ‘Brownian’ cascade. What nonsense! Brown used both waterfalls and cascades in his plans, but was primarily focused on just creating lakes. One should keep in mind that this waterfall was created in honour of Queen Elizabeth II at the time of her coronation in 1952, so certainly holds a greater historic element to Wimbledon Park than a Brownian cascade myth. It is part of our local history and the kids just love it.
4. The Brook. Re-landscaped to improve visual amenity, habitat and flood protection, bridges improved. Major problem here because the Café Pavilion would have to be removed, which is something that should not be done. See point 20. Secondly, the brook is very often just a gulley with a trickle of water running through it. It really isn’t the feature some think it is or might be.
5. The Great Field. Retained, works to improve drainage. Yes, we agree, however, it should continue as a venue for football with goal posts and pitch markings. Keep in mind that sport and having fun are key deliverables of Wimbledon Park to the public and football plays a large part in kids’ recreation and training.
6. Horse Close Wood. Managed for nature. Not sure what that means, however the Heritage Group’s paper on the subject cited the clearing of ivy from the specimen trees and the clearing of brambles etc. in order to allow the bluebells and wild flowers to flourish. Any work should be carried out under the leadership of Merton Council’s Arboricultural Department, who have great experience.
7. Ashen Grove. Management improved. Yes, with the work being carried out under the leadership of Merton Council’s Arboricultural Department.
8. Revelstoke Road entrance. Railings, gates and signage improved. Don’t understand what is to be improved because the gates function perfectly, the railings also and the signs are clear.
9. Wimbledon Park Road entrance. Railings, gates and signage improved. Don’t understand what is to be improved because the gates function perfectly, the railings also and the signs are clear.
10. Home Park Road entrance. Railings, gates and signage improved. Re-open the utility gate. Don’t understand what is to be improved because the gates function perfectly, the railings also and the signs are clear. Re-open the utility gate doesn’t make sense. Just means a extra gate to open and close everyday with access to the same space available from the main HPR gates.
11. Revelstoke Road car park. Retained and NOT extended. Well, retained yes, however the Council may well wish to have the space to the east of the car park enhanced with a honeycomb substrate under the turf in case they would wish to allow extra parking on occasion. One should keep in mind that during the Wimbledon Fortnight, thousands of cars are parked in Wimbledon Park and one shouldn’t be too precious about additional parking at the Revelstoke Road entrance if the Council feel it is necessary. Also National Grid have a right to use that space for locating heavy equipment when working on their cooling drums located in Horse Close Wood, so that space will be used again.
12. Woodland car park. Retained and NOT extended. Looks ok and don’t think there is space to extend it.
13. Golf Club boundary. Railings improved, hedgerow maintained with selective thinning to open views. Yes, but keeping in mind that the prickly hedgerows are a major deterrent to people entering the park when it is shut.
14. Railway embankment adjacent to parkland. Hedgerow maintained and managed for nature. Not sure what that means, but sounds ok.
15. White Pavilion. Extended to house kiosk and public toilets and pumping facility for The Elisabeth Pool. Not a good idea. See notes 16 and 20. This is a lovely building and should be retained just as it is. The current users of the building are the Metropolitan Police and who could ask for a better tenant in a public park! The pumping facility should remain isolated because of noise from the pumps which would permeate through the White Pavilion.
16. Toilet block (existing). Removed. No, look at point 20 to understand how the park functions and why the location for the current toilet block suits the public. What is being asked is every visitor must walk all the way to the Wimbledon Park Road entrance to take a pee. Ridiculous! It is a challenge to create a public toilet block that fits in and looks attractive and I think the current building achieves both those aims.
17. Play area including water play (west of the tennis courts). Retained and Enhanced to consolidate all formal play provision in one area, zoned for ages. This cavalier approach shows a complete lack of understanding regarding how kids of different ages use the park. The small play area directly behind the tennis courts is used by the very young toddlers mainly because it is small and a lot less noisy than the large play area. This is an important amenity and should be retained. I note in the drawings that the surface of the large play area looks to have lost all of its grass turf. Again a total lack of understanding as to how The Elisabeth Pool works with the lovely green grass area surrounding it being the perfect place for families to picnic on a summer’s day while the kids play in the pool. Today, this feature is absolutely magic and to think of changing it is just terrible!
18. Toddler play area. Removed and moved to the consolidated play area. No, see point 17.
19. Tennis courts. Retained. Well, yes, but the back ten courts need improving with astro-turf. I saw in another plan a conversion of some of the courts for 5 a side football. Absolutely not acceptable! You can’t play tennis with a football match taking place off your left elbow which would be a massive distraction to a game which takes a calm mind to play well. Tennis courts are for tennis, although happy to make a concession for netball which does well on the courts.
20. Café Pavilion. Removed. Absolutely not acceptable. This clearly demonstrates the total lack of understanding as to the dynamics of the park and the inter-relationship between the kid’s play area, the tennis courts, the Waterfall Garden and the Crazy Golf. The Café Pavilion is in the centre of all these activities and reflects the pattern of footfall within the park. The Café Pavilion really works well on this site as mum’s can take their kids there or have a coffee while the kids are playing tennis or playing in the playground or Waterfall Garden. Again, considering the footfall of the park, the Café Pavilion is an essential ingredient to the park’s deliverable to the public. It is also why the toilet block is perfectly situated. The Café Pavilion and the toilet block are located at the cross roads of the park. Finally, the tennis courts were originally laid out in the early 1920s and the Café Pavilion dates from that period. So nearly one hundred years of happy use by the residents and visitors to the park. The building itself is really special and just reflects that family way of coming together for sport and relaxation. I think it is listed and should be preserved at all costs.
21. Parks maintenance staff. Relocated from Cafe Pavilion to area at south end of the park. No, keep them where they are, it works for both the staff and the park.
22. Crazy golf. Retained and incorporated into the re-landscaped area around the brook. Because the Café Pavilion would stay, the changing of the brook becomes a problem. I suggest leave things as they are because it all works. Also, keep in mind that the brook is often dry in summer, so all there is to enjoy as a feature is an empty gulley with a trickle of water running through it.
23. Beach Volleyball. Retained. Yes, good decision.
24. Bowls Pavilion. Refurbished and extended plus a two story café extension fronting lake. No, refurbish it but keep it as it is. This is a listed building. See note 28 comments regarding a lakeside café.
25. Bowling Green. Retained. Yes, good decision.
26. Bowling Green 2 picnic area. Retained as picnic area. Yes, good decision.
27. Watersports & Outdoor Centre, existing. Removed. Yes, good decision.
28. Watersports & Outdoor Centre. New two story building on lake edge to north of existing location. Yes, good decision to replace the old Centre, however, I’m not totally convinced that moving the location is such a good idea. Where the Centre is now, works perfectly and as it is directly behind the Bowls Pavilion, it doesn’t obstruct any views. If it is moved to the north, then it will obstruct views and it will give up what really has to be the best site for such a busy activity involving boats and canoes etc. There is the opportunity to include in the design of this new facility a coffee café so that visitors can enjoy the view across the lake particularly during bad weather. This would incorporate some of the features considered for the expansion of the Bowls Pavilion. This location, situated on the lake front as part of the Watersports facility, would provide a much better position for viewing the lake.
29. Athletics Buildings, Options. The location of the buildings remain were they are, however they and the spectator stand need to be replaced with modern structures. Yes, certainly requires new thinking. One issue is sound pollution. The current Public Address unit is far too loud and pollutes all the residential areas that surround the park. Attention should be given to incorporating a system that limits the sound to just the stadium with a small reduced overspill of sound.
30. Athletics Tracks. Options. The location of the track remains where it is however the surrounding conifers should be removed to open the space up and tackle the tree root problem, which damage the track. Also, the hard line of the conifers creates a very gloomy aspect in winter, they really have to go.
31. Angling from golf course land. Retained. Yes, good decision.
The idea of creating a Master Plan has its problems. The Council spent £50,000 on the Glasspoole Thompson plan for the park and nothing was ever done. Here we have £150,000 spent in a climate of high austerity and it looks very much like a waste of money because the plan doesn’t reflect why the park is so successful today and how it works. If the park was in dire condition and unloved, then a plan would be most appropriate. In Wimbledon Park today we have a fantastic success story and any effort for a future vision should reflect that success and focus on maintaining that success.
Sim Comfort, Chairman
Wimbledon Park Heritage Group
c/o Sim Comfort
127 Arthur Road
Please send us your feedback regarding the Council's plan to change Wimbledon Park. We need your support to retain the elements of the park that we all love. We will be challenging the Council and plan to have a public meeting in October. More information soon!
020 8944 8747