Wildest dreams

Bush Hill Park wildlife garden
Volunteers have helped to transform Bush Hill Park wildlife garden over the last year

Carole Stanley on how an overgrown wildness has developed into a tranquil space for the community

It all started when I took part in a litter pick about two years ago. I hadn’t set foot in Bush Hill Park before then, and I certainly knew nothing about its dishevelled wildlife garden.

What began as a couple of hours of volunteering subsequently turned into a huge part of my life – combining my love of nature, education, and community engagement.

The Bush Hill Park wildlife garden is a triangle of land which lies between the tennis courts and the back gardens of houses in Southbury Road. Although it had been maintained by the Friends of Bush Hill Park for many years, the number of volunteers was dwindling, and they had become somewhat disillusioned with the task.

The raised pond was a constant target for vandals, plants and amphibians were being stolen, rocks were thrown in, and the liner was damaged. Another issue was funding; the local authority was cash-strapped and so any improvements had to be funded by the friends group raising money or applying for charitable grants. As a result, the garden was becoming overgrown and unwelcoming.

Brambles, nettles and couch grass had pretty much taken over and litter was a constant problem. It looked unloved and was largely ignored by the majority of park users.

I do like a challenge, so I agreed to join the gardening group and the committee. We held public meetings and it became clear that anti-social behaviour was the main issue for local residents. They had strong views about solutions, believing that locking the park at night, introducing security lighting, and installing CCTV, were the way forward. But these measures come with a heavy cost.

Instead, we embarked on a partnership approach. We were all volunteers; the friends group, adults with learning difficulties from the charity One-to-One, and children from George Spicer School. After realising that most damage was occurring in the evenings, we decided to install a lockable gate. The council was persuaded and agreed  to work with the friends group, using funding from The Enfield Society, to make it happen. The gate was installed a year ago and occurrences of vandalism and littering have fallen considerably since.

A frog on the edge of Bush Hill Park wildlife garden
Wildlife has returned to the pond after work to reduce littering and improve air quality

Now that we have more volunteers we’ve been able to hold regular meetings – and summer picnics! Every week, gardening club members work hard to keep the garden looking good. We have built three small sunken ponds, a wildflower meadow, outdoor classroom, and new flowerbeds sponsored by Enfield in Bloom.We have also secured funding from the council for a bench and living willow dome, which we hope to install this month.

The garden is now teeming with wildlife, including bats, bees, birds, amphibians, dragonflies, butterflies and moths. We have also been chosen for next year’s Co-op Local Community Fund and will use this money to continue to promote the garden to everyone in the community.