Nature Day – in the words of the great Professor David Bellamy – WOW!! King’s Stairs Gardens looked fantastic thanks to Southwark Council and Quadron’s parks team and around 1,000 beaming children and grownups visited the park on Sunday, 27th March to enjoy exciting activities, nature trails, music, games and shows. And the sun shone brightly for us the whole time!
Unfortunately Professor and Mrs Bellamy could not be with us for the day. They were caught up in the East Coast main line mess where, because of signal failures, many thousands of passengers were stuck on trains for over five hours, some evacuated, some left in York late on Saturday evening which was teeming with police and Scottish football fans trying to get to London for the match against Brazil. Sadly, they were left with no choice but to return home. Professor Bellamy left us a message on Sunday morning that we were able to put through the PA system. Thanks to Danny for setting this up and running the PA system and to Barry Albin-Dyer for his continued support and lending this for the day.
Richard Preston, star teacher at St Joseph’s school, was quick to take up the challenge to lead the nature trails and the Groundwork team kindly gave him a quick makeover so he looked the part. After a quick tour around the park to provide him with some of the information Professor Bellamy shared with us on his last visit he was ready to go and did a fantastic job; thoroughly entertaining and informative. He also covered most of the announcements for the event. Thanks as well to his paramedic friend Chris who sat out the day in the social club as our first aider.
After a brief introduction by yours truly, the event was opened by Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, who talked about the threat to the park and continuing the fight to ensure Thames Water choose a more appropriate site.
Richard Preston led the first nature trail from the marquee (provided by Stitches Marquees) and Anne-Marie from Diddi Dance led animal-themed dancing in the main marquee and around 40 children joined in the fun. Anne-Marie holds dance classes for pre-school children at Time and Talents on Monday and Tuesday mornings at 10am.
The political support continued with the arrival of Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP who spoke about the importance of urban parkland and playgrounds and praised the campaign for its work in saving the park. He introduced the children of Tickled Pink Academy and they went on to captivate the audience with their Enchanted Forest performance. Laura runs her classes at the Millpond Tenants Hall on Jamaica Road on Saturdays.
All the other events were ongoing around the park. Animal interaction with Talk to the Animals was very popular, with the 2 owls and the little hedgehog proving to be a huge hit with both children and adults. Danny, a former zoo-keeper, and his wife Hazel were one of the first entertainers to agree to join us on the Nature Day given the nature and conservation theme. Talk to the Animals can be booked for parties and events (www.talktotheanimals.org.uk).
Alongside Talk to the Animals was the first of the Groundwork marquees. The Groundwork team (who work with the Young Friends of Southwark Park) really did add so much to the Nature Day and we hope to be able to work with them again on future events and community projects. Groundwork provided face painting and hands on activities where children were able to learn woodwork skills to make their own bird boxes to take home and also mould balls of grated cheese and bird seed to create bird feeders.
There were nature product stalls on the day with Mark of Fin King Aquatics which is based on Southwark Park Road, Sonya of Usborne Books and Christiano with nature shaped biscuits. Details of these businesses are in the sponsor and support list which can be found at the end of this report.
Louise Sheridan and Rob Collis, who have both worked so hard with the campaign and the Nature Day, were extremely busy on the information desk where they handed out the free nature bags for the children. The bags included the custom-produced nature fun book for KSG, nature-related material, crayon packs thanks to Cafe Rouge at Hays Galleria and information on the people that supported us on the day. The bags were a huge hit and the fun book will be available to be downloaded from the www.saveksg.com (and hopefully Southwark Council and school resource) websites for use by families and schools at any time. The books include fun and educational pages from the Woodland Trust, a word search by Richard Preston and some ‘did you knows’ that I thought would be interesting to children and adults alike. Huge thanks to ColourPoint and Hello!Lucky for producing and sponsoring all of the Nature Day books and other material for the day, to Alessandra Carletti (freelance designer) for the many hours she worked to design this book and to her and Dave Luis for the other marketing material. Thanks also to Southwark News for the generous help and support.
The children’s lunch boxes were prepared thanks to Kellie Bate and her family and to the generosity of Burger King at Surrey Quays, H’s Cafe, Nisa Local in Brunel Road, Simplicity and Tesco. Penny Dearsley was equally busy on the nature products stall with a variety of information that she had sourced from organisations such as the Woodland Trust and the RSPB and also her hugely successful raffle which comprised many great prizes kindly donated by local people and businesses. Thanks to Penny for the huge amount of time she spent working on sponsorship for the event. Thanks as well to Amanda and Roger Squires for setting up an information board on things to do and see in the Rotherhithe area, for sharing their knowledge of event organising and for powering up the PA equipment.
Groundwork had another marquee with various games, including giant jenga and giant dominoes and toward the end of the day provided great entertainment with tug of war and sack races. Alongside them the London Bubble formed a circle for storytelling and story acting. The children thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in the Bubble’s activities and we look forward to reading some of the stories that were written about the park. It was great that the Bubble could be involved in the day given that they often rehearse in KSG and they are based just around the corner.
Southwark Mobile Play Unit provided crafts where children could colour in and make their own nature badges. Decathlon had a large area towards Jamaica Road with a great selection of sports for the children, including golf, tennis and football. The sports were extremely popular and lucky children came away with balls, golf, tennis and football kits.
Vanessa Woolf joined us to provide story telling for children and musicians Nigel of Bermondsey, Chris Roche and Jack Holding all performed on the day. At this point and in the wonderful sunshine it would have been wonderful if the music had continued, a picnic rug could have been rolled out and we could all settle in for the afternoon! But sadly the day had to come to an end. Father Graham did us proud on the close with some wonderful words and drawing the raffle with the children. It truly was great to have so many happy children and people commenting on the wonderful community spirit and asking when we could have another event! My boys spent all day in the park having been out there from set up time and just wanted to continue playing golf at the end. They then spent hours going through all of their goodies in their nature packs, took their nature fun book to school and are still talking about the Nature Day. So, just judging from them, it was a huge success.
In addition to the people I have mentioned above, special thanks also go to William Cameron for coordinating the set up for the day, Elaine and Mark Holland, Simon Kenward, Roger Bilder, Lucy Walker, Jill Gibbs, Dan Johnson, Andrew Graystone, Melanie Madden, Michael Daniels and David White. A huge thank you to Gill Kelly and all at Bermondsey Community Council, Councillors Anood Al-Samerai and Barrie Hargrove for their assistance, John Benton, Rosie Thornton, Christopher Cook and all at Southwark Council’s Events and Parks teams, the contributors on the day - all of whom gave their time, energy and enthusiasm free of charge, the amazing generosity and hard work from so many people/businesses and to everyone who attended, donated and joined in the fun to make the Nature Day such a success. I hope that we can support the many people that contributed to the day by promoting their businesses, trying their wares, joining their groups and sampling their food. The sponsor and supporter list follows.
We will now continue the fight for the protection of the wonderful and irreplaceable KSG. I also have grand ambitions of organising a picnic day in KSG for Parks Week at the end of July – anybody want to help?!
The Nature Day was brought to you by the Save King’s Stairs Gardens Action Group, thanks to Professor David Bellamy OBE and sponsorship and support from -
Bermondsey Community Council and Southwark Council www.southwark.gov.uk
Burger King, Surrey Quays www.burgerking.co.uk
Cafe Frizzante www.frizzanteltd.co.uk
Cafe Rouge, Hays Galleria www.caferouge.co.uk
Cristiano Paolini (cakes for all occasions) firstname.lastname@example.org
Diddi Dance www.diddidance.com
Docklands 24 www.docklands24.co.uk
F. A. Albin & Sons www.albins.co.uk
Fin King Aquatics www.finkingaquatics.com
Gillett’s Flowers, Lower Road
Groundwork London www.london.groundwork.org.uk
H’s Cafe, Neptune Street
London Bubble Theatre Company www.londonbubble.org.uk
National Biodiversity Network www.nbn.org.uk
NHS Change4Life www.nhs.uk/change4life
Nigel of Bermondsey www.nigelofbermondsey.com
Nisa Local, Brunel Road www.nisalocally.com
People’s Trust for Endangered Species www.ptes.org
Simplicity Restaurant www.simplicityrestaurants.com
South London Press www.southlondonpress.co.uk
Southwark Cyclists www.southwarkcyclists.org.uk
Southwark Mobile Play Unit www.southwark.gov.uk
Southwark News www.southwarknews.co.uk
St Peter & the Guardian Angels Church and Social Club
Stitches Marquees www.stitchesmarquees.com
Surrey Docks Farm www.surreydocksfarm.org.uk
Talk to the Animals www.talktotheanimals.org.uk
The Wildlife Trusts www.wildlifetrusts.org
Tickled Pink Academy www.tickledpinkproductions.co.uk
Trees for Cities www.treesforcities.org
Usborne Books at Home and School (Sonya Rissman) www.usborne.com
Vanessa Woolf www.londondreamtime.com
Veolia Environmental Services www.veoliaenvironmentalservices.co.uk
Woolfson and Tay www.woolfsonandtay.com