Battersea Park retains its prestigious Green Flag

Battersea Park has again been confirmed as one of the best green open spaces in the country after successfully retaining its coveted Green Flag Award.

Described as “the jewel in the crown of London’s parks”, the award from leading environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy recognises the best parks and green spaces across the UK.

A Green Flag is a sign to visitors that Battersea Park “boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent facilities”.

The awards are judged by open space experts, who volunteer their time to assess candidates against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.

The Green Flag announcement comes just days after the council unveiled plans to invest another £820,000 in the park. This money will fund the following schemes:

Creation of a new playground near La Gondola Café – This will be located just off East Carriage Drive near the café and boating lake near to what is known locally as “The American ground”. Around £150,000 is to be spent on providing new play equipment suitable for children up the age of 12.

Providing a new entrance – Opening up a new pedestrian entrance between Chelsea and Rosary Gates, with associated landscaping, allowing this new access route to connect with existing paths near the Millennium Arena. This improvement will cost £100,000.

A new garden – The Promontory is currently a closed and unused area of the park some 50m east of Albert Bridge which projects about 12m into the river. Plans here are for a new landscaped garden to be created based on designs put forward by David Keary, a landscape design practice based in Leicester. Bringing this garden to life will cost £70,000.

Cascade fountain feasibility and restoration project – The cascades are an important and prominent historic landscape feature, but over time they have deteriorated and can no longer be used without causing significant additional damage. Around £160,000 has been set aside for a feasibility study into their complete restoration and to help fund their refurbishment.

Restoration of seating shelters – Some £80,000 will be spent on restoring these three historic shelters with new seating and substantial structural and decorative renovation.

Repairs to the river wall –The wall is suffering from tidal erosion and age which is compromising its integrity both as a flood defence and as the supporting structure to the park’s northern boundary. This work will cost around £260,000.

Funding for these schemes has come from a variety of sources: Half a million pounds has been raised from Formula E, while a further £250,000 has been received from the developers of the neighbouring Battersea Wharf and Chelsea Bridge Wharf housing schemes. A further £30,000 has also been pledged by local charity The Friends of Battersea Park.

Wandsworth’s environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “Battersea Park truly is one of London’s most popular and attractive open spaces. No other park in the capital offers so much to see, do and enjoy.

“I am delighted it has won a green flag again. The judges clearly recognised how beautiful and well looked after it is and with all these exciting new schemes in the pipeline it is going to be even better and more attractive in the years to come.”

International Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said: “We are delighted to be celebrating another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Award scheme, especially as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Awards. All the flags flying this year are a testament to the efforts of the thousands of men and women, both staff and volunteers, who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

Battersea Park’s numerous attractions include a boating lake, sports courts, an Olympic quality running track, bike hire, playgrounds, a mini-golf course, a treetop adventure course  a popular children’s zoo, lakeside restaurant, Victorian bandstand, tennis courts, all weather floodlit sports pitches and an impressive peace pagoda – a unique London landmark complete with gold-coloured Buddhas overlooking the River Thames.

The 200 acre space was opened by Queen Victoria in March 1858 having been created out of fields and marshland to create a place of healthy recreation for the huge numbers of people who had moved to London during the Industrial Revolution.

It was designed by the famous Victorian engineer James Pennethorne and the planting overseen by legendary adventurer John Gibson, who scoured the four corners of the globe for exotic plants to display in the park’s famous sub-tropical garden, the first of its kind to open to the British public.

Throughout the 20th century, much of the original horticultural diversity was lost, largely due to the impact of two world wars when the park was not only used for allotments and pig farming, but also for troop dispersal areas, bomb shelters and anti-aircraft gun emplacements. The park also suffered extensive bomb damage from Luftwaffe bombers on missions to disable neighbouring Battersea Power Station, as well as being hit towards the end of the war by a V1 rocket.

In 1951 the park was chosen as the home for the Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens, designed by Russell Page. A permanent funfair was also included, which for many years proved enormously popular with people of all ages, but which eventually closed in 1974.

Under the stewardship of the Greater London Council, the park became rundown in the 1970s and 80s and it was eventually taken over by Wandsworth in 1986 when the GLC was abolished. Since then, millions of pounds have been spent transforming it into today’s popular and much-loved open space.

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