Monday, 28 February 2011

Why the Park needs Friends.

In the early 1700s of the owners of  Pishiobury commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown or one of his associates to come up with a design for a new Park to accompany Pishiobury House.  When the workmen left they had transformed what was probably an agricultural landscape into something very similar to what we see today.  They had diverted and re-channeled the river to make a serpentine lake around the east side of the house.  They created pleasure grounds adjacent to the lake and built a ha-ha wall as an apparently invisible barrier to prevent cattle entering the grounds of the house.  They carried out extensive tree planting almost certainly using the nearby nationally acclaimed Thomas Rivers Nursery, some of these trees are still surviving to the present day.  In the park itself they constructed or modified several avenues or Walks of trees including putting down some hard surfacing from gravel pits dug on the Park.  Boundary woodlands were established to screen the Park from the rest of Sawbridgeworth and to give the area privacy and seclusion.  In those days the Park would have been used exclusively by the privileged few although the continued existence of the footpath which runs along Oak Walk must have always been an irritation.  My mother remembers the Park gamekeeper in the 1930s ensuring that everyone kept strictly to this path. The estate and Park remained in much the same way until the break up of the estate about 1940 when it passed out of private ownership.  From then on the Park went into decline, numerous trees were felled and taken away for timber, many more died naturally and over 200 Elms had to be felled due to Dutch Elm disease in the early 1970s- many of these were spectacular landscape feature trees.  It was a miracle that the Park escaped development, at one time there was a scheme to bypass Sawbridgeworth by making a road through the north end of the park from the end of the old A414,  there were rumblings of a golf course and there were significant development incursions along Pishiobury Drive, Beech Drive and the north west corner of the Park.  Only in the 1980s was the Park purchased by East Herts district Council and made open for general public use.  Parks do not manage themselves and this is where an important role for Friends comes in. Recently, we have been doing extensive tree planting to make good the many gaps that had developed in Oak Walk where trees had died or been felled over the years.  EHDC is keen to see the Park return to its proper period landscape character and friends have been helping here by installing a substantial Oak benches.  We are developing a programme which will publicise the Park and help people to both understand and value this fantastic public resource on our doorstep.  There are many future projects planned so why not volunteer to help when you can and ensure that the Park continues in good health for the next generation.

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