This report covers the period from July 2005 to June 2006 and is my seventh as your Chairman. Under our rules no officer may serve more than three consecutive terms in office and my third period will end in July 2008, our 20th anniversary. In common with the Prime Minister, I intend to ensure an orderly hand over to my successor prior to that date.
This year saw the new Winter Garden, designed in memory of our former Secretary, Elaine Hodges, advance from concept to reality with the completion of the first phase. There have been 10 meetings of the Committee and I pay tribute to all members of the Committee for their commitment and hard work on behalf of the Friends. We had a stall at St Mary’s Church Fair on 10 September, which not only raised £108, but, thanks to Elizabeth Hood, our Secretary and her team of helpers, also raised the profile of the Friends among many local residents who were previously unaware of our existence.
The Friends continued to have our interests in planning matters affecting the Park represented by Brian Bating and Chris Rice to the Planning Committee and Conservation Committees of Wandsworth Council. A proposal for a foot volley/beach volley ball court to be built in the Park was withdrawn but may well come bouncing back. The Council’s objections relating to a 218 bedroom hotel and offices on the Southern Site of Chelsea Bridge Wharf on the Queenstown Road were supported. We are continuing to monitor closely Parkview International’s proposals for the Queen’s Roundabout adjacent to Rosary Gate and their plans to demolish and rebuild the Power Station’s world famous chimneys.
Over 200 garden designers, enthusiasts and Friends attended Dan Pearson’s lecture on the Winter Garden which was held in the British Library Conference Centre on Monday 19 December. The scene was set by Jennifer Ullman, Chief Parks Officer, who explained the many layers of design involved in the recent restoration of the Park. Dan Pearson followed with a comprehensive description of his design for the Winter Garden adjacent to the Sun Gate. He inspired everyone present with the depth of his knowledge and enthusiasm for the project. The lecture raised £1587 for the Winter Garden fund.
Thanks to grants from Living Spaces, Wandsworth Council and the Metropolitan Gardens Trust, together with our own fund raising efforts, £50,000 had been raised by the end of December. This enabled works on initial clearance and hard landscaping of the main path and Parrotia Oval to begin in February. This work on the hub of the new garden, which included the installation of steel edging, surfacing with self-compacting Breedon gravel and the repositioning of five large rocks acting as a sculptural device and resting perches, was completed last month.
Throughout the year a small group of Friends has continued the fund raising effort in order to carry out the next phase and begin planting. We are immensely grateful to them and to all our donors and supporters for their continued faith in this project. We received £3000 from one wonderful Friend, £1000 from Saga Group Ltd, £750 from the Astor Trust and several other splendid donations from individual Friends. Of course much more is needed and another generous Friend, Greg Lawson, has designed and printed, at no cost to us, 15 thousand copies of a flyer which is being circulated as widely as possible.
A BBQ was held at the Zoo in aid of the Winter Garden Fund on 22 May. This was by kind permission of the Heap family and well over 100 Friends, including many children, attended. Despite the pouring rain delicious food and drink was served, two bands played throughout the evening and a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all. The instigator and organizer of this event was Ruth Forrest, a founder member of our Committee. Her legendary powers of persuasion are such that there were no outgoings and £2200 was raised for the Winter Garden. This took place on the first day of the Chelsea Flower Show where another member of the Committee, Philip Nixon, won a Gold medal for the second year running for his design of the Savills Show Garden.
The strength in depth on the Committee is reflected in the latest edition of our quarterly Review edited by Vicki Barker. Our Editor, Mike Bates, had requested some relief this year and, as an experienced journalist, Vicki has done an excellent job. The Review links all Friends and reports progress and issues concerning the Park and not least the Winter Garden. We are so grateful to Mark Cowne and all those involved in its production and also the dedicated team of Friends who distribute it so efficiently.
Last year I welcomed our new Treasurer, Virginia Darbyshire. The demands of the Charity Commissioners, Gift Aid contributions linked to donations and, not least, the Winter Garden Fund have all represented an increasing work load and we are very grateful to Virginia for her stewardship of our accounts. Alan Buss has once again examined the books as our honorary auditor and his excellent work is also much appreciated.
Our Membership Secretary, Clare Elliot, continues to maintain our roll of members in excellent shape. She was there at every event checking subscriptions have been paid and enrolling new Friends. During the period fifty new members and five corporate members joined. Elizabeth Hood, our Secretary, has remained the backbone of the Friends in every aspect of our affairs. We are enormously grateful to her for her huge contribution in forwarding our objectives
The Friends are a registered charity governed by a constitution and rules adopted on our formation in 1988. Our main aim is to protect the Park as a green place of tranquility and leisure and to act as a liaison between Wandsworth Council and Park users. Living in London is an artificial existence. Lots of people hardly ever feel real soil under their feet or see plants grow except in pots. Parks and green spaces are as essential to our cities as roads and sewers. Battersea Park needs all the Friends it can get and the need for our work remains as vital as ever.