Since the site of the Park was purchased it has undergone huge changes. Joanne Dugmore, recently appointed Communications Co-ordinator for the Project, asked to be told about these changes.
The questions, which she asked, and the information, which she learnt from the Founder Trustees' records and photographs, are summarised below
© Ralph Cobham
"What were the major changes made after the Trust purchased the site in 1997?"
Between 1997 and 2000, the major changes involved:
'Selective Clearance & Site Preparation':
- site clean-up with diggers
- removal of fly-tipped refuse and litter
- felling dangerous trees with chain-saws
- removal of scrub & clearance of undergrowth
- on-site bonfires
'Park Creation & Establishment':
- laying out the path network
- restoring the iron-railings fence
- rebuilding the boundary wall
- purchasing, transporting and installing the Sarsen Stones
- creating the Performance Area with wooden Pallisade
- planting trees, shrubs and bulbs
- Then in 1999-2000, thanks to major grants received from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Southern Arts, the six Stone Poetry Plaques to be seen in the Park were designed, sculpted and installed by Alec Peever.
"Was there a milestone event, marking the official opening of the Park?"
Yes this occurred in 2002, when The Reverend John Salter, President of the Betjeman Society (Wantage Branch) cut a ribbon in the Performance Area. Jazz was played by the Wantage Silver Band. There were Poetry Readings by Michael Riggs and Jose Cockerell of the Betjeman Society (Wantage Branch) and a rendering of JB's Hymn 'The Church's Restoration' by Fr John Salter.
"Since the official opening have any changes occurred to the Park's appearance?"
'Well, yes, the upkeep of the Park is rather like the re-painting of the Forth Bridge: it never stops!
For example in 2005-6, the Trustees obtained major funding from the Waste Re-cycling Organisation (WREN), supplemented by several local donations for
- A Park Restoration and Enhancement Project." <="" b="">
- Clearance of the South West corner of the Park, involving the removal of both building foundations and the roots of mature sycamore and ash trees
- Repair of the Leat Revetments, using timber felled in the Park
- Installation of more litter bins and rustic seats
- Crown pruning of Yew Trees
- Installation of Fencing on the northern Boundary with Clarks Mill and a private residence.
It was a big undertaking for the Trustees, which was achieved with the help of a lot of voluntary labour and the input of Local Contractors: in particular tree surgeons,
" By the time that this Project was completed, the Park had been established for years. It must have seemed that no more major works would be required for several years?"
Far from it, for Jo learnt that expansion of activities in the Park started from this point.
"2009 saw the start of the 3+ year Educational Project for the benefit of 14 local Schools and a wide range of adult Interest Groups. This is being funded by Heritage Lottery Fund grant and private donations! This Project is described in another section of the website."
Pictures of all of the changes described above are displayed in other sections of this website, which feature the Educational Exhibits and the Photo Archive.