News

Butterfly Picnic

The Butterfly Picnic – another wonderful community event in King’s Stairs Gardens.  After days of rain and thunderstorms, the sun shone brightly over King’s Stairs Gardens for the Butterfly Picnic and several hundred people visited the park to enjoy an afternoon of fun and relaxation.

The trees, the butterfly garden and the stalls were beautifully decorated with butterflies and flowers and most of these were given away as prizes to children throughout the afternoon.  The tables were set up on each side of the riverside steps and the main picnic area was on the ‘hill’, a popular picnic spot in the park which allows people to relax on the grass and look out to the fabulous view of Wapping, the City, Tower Bridge and the River Thames.

Thanking all those who had helped put on the day through generous sponsorship, donations and support and to everybody for attending, I also gave information on Love Parks Week, the Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count and the new butterfly garden created by local children.  I discussed how valuable our urban green spaces are to communities and the environment and how the sewage overflow problems are caused by rainwater runoff as more and more green spaces are being concreted over.  Given that concreting over more green spaces such as King’s Stairs Gardens should not be the solution, that thousands have told Thames Water that the use of the park is not acceptable and the fact that it has viable alternatives we continue to demand that the park is removed from its list.  I talked about the wonderful messages we have received of what the park means to local people and asked everybody to please help us with the fight to save our beautiful park from Thames Water’s bulldozers.

The event was a part of the Love Parks Week celebrations which is a campaign by GreenSpace to encourage people to get out and enjoy their parks.  The campaign is now established as a major event that is celebrated in parks across the country. Paul Bramhill, Chief Executive of GreenSpace, said: “Love Parks Week encourages friends, families, the young and old, to come together and enjoy what our parks and green spaces offer. People must never forget that these spaces provide many opportunities for friendships, education, health, exercise and simple play and fun.”  Thanks to all at GreenSpace for what they do to promote our green spaces and the help given to us in putting on this event.

Ben and Kate from JoJo’s Travelling Minstrels www.jojofun.co.uk started off the fun with some music and balloon modelling.  They were fantastic at engaging the children and entertained them throughout the afternoon with fun and games including magic, dancing and a treasure hunt.  Thanks also to JoJo for delivering the decorations and helping to put them up in the morning.

Vanessa Woolf did some magical story-telling throughout the afternoon and this included a wonderful story about King’s Stairs Gardens, its history and what is buried beneath its ‘hill’.  The story ‘How King’s Stairs Gardens came to be’ can be read on her website www.londondreamtime.com.  Nigel of Bermondsey www.nigelofbermondsey.com shortly.   Bermondsey Fame Academy 2011 winner, Jack Holding www.MySpace.com/jackholding-music finished up the music on the day.  He continued to entertain the crowd with his great songs, despite having to carry on ‘unplugged’ due to the failure of our self-powered speakers!  Many people asked if they can find his music anywhere, well I have been reliably informed that Jack is now recording so watch this space.  The children of Tickled Pink Academy www.tickled-pink-productions.com all looked the part with their butterfly wings and once again did Laura and their families proud with their butterfly dance.  We thank Vanessa, Laura, the children of Tickled Pink, Nigel and Jack for the great entertainment and for joining us again in King’s Stairs Gardens. entertained with his fantastic songs about the area which included his first ever performance of a special song about the royal history of King’s Stairs Gardens.  This will be available to listen to on

The stalls were extremely popular on the day.  We had free face painting thanks to June who does it all for a donation to Help for Heroes.  The information stall was once again manned by our hardworking Save King’s Stairs Gardens Action Group committee members Louise and Rob – thanks Louise and Rob for all you do for the campaign!  Many people spoke to Louise and Rob about what they could do to help and we received many more notes from people about what the park means to them.  They truly are wonderful to read and it makes all of the hard work worthwhile!  There was also information from the Butterfly Conservation, including butterfly ID sheets so everybody could join in on the Big Butterfly Count.  Thanks to the Butterfly Conservation for all they do in the conservation of butterflies, moths and the environment and for the help they gave to us.

The tombola stall was stacked full of prizes relating to enjoying the great outdoors, from picnic sets and chairs to cooler boxes.  Despite it being overflowing with prizes it quickly cleared leaving an empty stall prior to the end of the afternoon but many happy faces! Thanks go to Lesley and Dennis for setting up and running the stall and their generosity, to Decathlon www.decathlon.com for the cricket sets, to the Yellow House www.theyellowhouse.eu for a voucher for a dinner for two, Simplicity www.simplicityrestaurants.com for a bottle of champagne and to other individuals who kindly donated prizes.  Thanks as well to Amanda and Roger for once again bringing their map that sets out other things to do and see in the area, for watering the garden and generally looking after the park. 

At the Eastern end of the walkway we had a BBQ – many comments were received on how tasty their burgers were!  Thanks to Sheilla, Fabrizio and Peter for the BBQ (dsheillaespinoza@hotmail.co.uk) and also for donating some of the food to a homeless charity and Sharon for helping her daughter, Holly and my son, Johnny with their toys and goodies stall.  The kites were a huge hit on the day and children have been spotted flying these in the park this week as well. Cristiano Paolini (cakes for all occasions - gsxr-1000-cristiano@hotmail.com) once again brought his delicious biscuits, this time shaped as butterflies and flowers.  Thanks to Elaine and Mark for running the butterfly-friendly plant stall on the day on behalf of Julie Gillett of Gilletts Flowers, 154 Lower Road, and for all of their invaluable help in organising the event, setting up and clearing up and their solid support of the campaign.  They had a table full of beautiful plants decorated with little butterflies.  We also had lavender and mint from the butterfly garden for people to help make their own gardens or balconies butterfly-friendly.  Congratulations once again to Julie for receiving a commendation at the Hampton Court Flower Show and for supplying us with the iceplants for the butterfly garden which were enthusiastically planted by some members of the King’s Stairs Gardens gardening group on Friday (thanks Amanda, Elaine, Jill, Mark and my two littlest angels).  

Thanks to Stuart and Adrienne from RoMo coffee www.romocoffee.com, Rachid from Infusion Events (food van) and to Hassan (helped by his young son with the ice-cream van) for joining us to complete the food element of the picnic day.

There was sporting fun in the park with cricket and Swingball thanks to Ken and Dave and to Mookie for donating the Swingball set, although it was a little quiet in this area with all of the activities on the riverfront.  Robert and Sapphire from the King’s Stairs Gardens Football Academy brought their football to the park and this proved popular as does their Saturday morning football club.  The ever-popular children’s playground was well-used.

The butterfly garden was officially opened at the end of the event by Cllr Barrie Hargrove.  The Butterfly Picnic idea has developed from the new butterfly garden which was a joint initiative from the Save King’s Stairs Gardens Action Group and Southwark Council Parks Dept and funded by MGJV.  This was to create a nature project for local children in response to the Butterfly Conservation’s call for people to help with the decline in the butterfly population and inspired by the Save King’s Stairs Gardens Action Group’s Honorary Patron, Professor David Bellamy’s involvement in the ‘biggest butterfly experience in the world’ at Butterfly World near St Albans.  Prof. Bellamy has said “butterflies are like the canaries in the coalmine, barometers of our environment. A silent environmental disaster is taking place and it must be reversed.” 

Cllr Hargrove talked about the “beautiful and fantastic King’s Stairs Gardens”, said some very encouraging words about the campaign to save the park, including that “it has been a real pleasure to be able to work with such dedicated people and people that love and treasure their green space” and told the community that “Southwark Council are supporting you throughout on this”.  In the theme of Cllr Hargrove’s message, the butterfly’s fight for survival is symbolic of our own fight to save King’s Stairs Gardens from Thames Water’s plans for its complete destruction, including 100s of mature trees and its important wildlife habitat.  Urban green spaces are immensely important for the environment and we have campaigned hard for Thames Water to recognise that environmental destruction on the banks of the Thames is not the answer.  If their plans go ahead, Thames Water would also be destroying the green heart of this community and taking away the social benefits that this beautiful park provides.

We are extremely grateful for the continued help and support from Cllr Peter John, Cabinet Members and all at Southwark Council.  It was also good to see Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, who also has given us much-valued support throughout the campaign, Cllr Wilma Nelson and Cllr Tim McNally.  Our MP Simon Hughes sent his apologies as he was away over the weekend.  Thanks as well to Chris Cook of Southwark Council’s Parks Department for all of his work in creating the garden, Andy Chatterton and Andrea Pita for their help with the planting day and organising the maintenance, to the staff and nursery children from the Bosco Centre and the teachers and year 4’s from St Joseph’s in Gomm Rd.   The garden attracted butterflies immediately and we expect that it can continue to be used by local schools as a learning resource as children can study life cycles in the class room and release their butterflies in the park, whilst also learning about the butterfly-friendly plants.   Local people have been speaking to us about how they already have their live butterfly kits and plan to release the butterflies in the new garden (photos of some of the first ones to be released at the bottom of this page).

The Butterfly Picnic was organised by the Save King’s Stairs Gardens Action Group and sponsored by MGJV and Rotherhithe Community Council.  Huge thanks to everybody that attended the event, to all of those mentioned above that helped put on the day and special thanks also go to Lucy, Francesca and her son William, Simon, William, Malcolm and Roger for helping to set up and clean up, Jill for helping with the gardening, collection of the equipment and delivery of flyers, Lize for being our first aid officer, Southwark Council’s Events team, Gill Kelly, Sr Cecily for the use of the gym, Peter @ the Angel for the use of his facilities, the London Bubble Theatre Company and Fr Graham at St Peter’s church and Mick at the social club for the loan of their equipment, Community Wardens Kevin and Stuart for dropping by, Southwark Council and Quadron’s parks team for the maintenance of the park, Charlz from www.eight16news.co.uk, Liliana from www.peoplesrepublicofsouthwark.co.uk and Michael from www.southwarknews.co.uk for joining us, Colourpoint for once again doing a great job on all our printing requirements (www.theleathermarket.co.uk/community/businessprofiles/154/colourpoint-studio), Alessandra for her great design work, Lucy, David L and David P for covering photography and filming, Roger for the media and to my wonderful family for supporting me in the organisation of these events.  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. 

We continue to fight for the protection of our unique and beautiful park.   We maintain that Thames Water should remove the park from its list by its Phase 2 consultation in September as there is enough evidence that King’s Stairs Gardens is not a suitable worksite and there are viable alternatives available to it.   

Please contact us if you can help, would like to join the e-mail group or to register for future events.  We are looking forward to having an Art in the Park afternoon and are also planning a photography class and possibly a bat spotting workshop.  The Save King’s Stairs Gardens Action Group is now a Green City Bats member following the discovery of a rare species of bat in the park, the recording of which looks to be a first for Southwark.