What Is Going On In Hammersmith Park?

Creation of new play areas causes controversy

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Ditch being dug for the new rock garden

The rock garden will double up as a playground

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Work to create two new play areas in Hammersmith Park is well underway but some residents say the revamp means dogs will now have far less space to run around in.

While the existing playground for smaller children will remain, a new play area for older children is currently being built to the east of it. In addition to this, a rock garden, which will double up as a further playground, is being created just to the north of the Japanese Garden.

“The various improvements to Hammersmith Park will provide a greater opportunity for access for the general public throughout the park that will provide benefits to a greater range of park users and enhance the use of this park for picnicking, informal games and quiet relaxation. Many of the internal fences will be removed or relocated to facilitate this,” say the Council.

“In order to achieve these improvements, an expansion to the east of the existing play area will be occupied for landscaping and play features. This area will provide a greater opportunity for play provision for children over eight years old but also more habitats for wildlife through the creation of mazes and other planting.”

The play area, designed for 8-11-year-olds will feature a 'forest' of red poles, reflecting the traditional use of red in Japanese architecture. There will also be hiding spaces and enclosures as well as three large mounds, representing Japanese mountain ranges. The Zen-style rock garden just to the north of the Japanese Garden will feature three large rocks for children to climb on, as well as stepping stones over gravel. One of the designers, Jaima Uriarte, from Churchman Landscape Architects, said of the rock garden-cum-playground: “It's been designed according to a traditional Japanese Garden. Once a year it will be raked, coinciding with a Japanese festival.”

However, the Hammersmith Park revamp has not been welcomed by everyone: some residents say the plans mean there will now be more sections of the park that will be dog-free.

“Two large areas of grass which are currently enjoyed by all are now being included into the 'dog free' zone. They are allocating the space that was once enjoyed by all to being for children and adults only,” said local resident Lucinda George. “If you look at the usage of the park during a calendar year, I am sure the number of people who walk their dogs far outweighs the number of children who use the playground.”

“A neighbour of mine who is a professional garden designer and a regular dog walker has told me that, in her view, in the winter months and early hours the only users seem to be dog walkers and pedestrians seeking the most direct route through the park. She also believes there is a need for open exercise areas for dogs which are protected from cycle paths as in twilight, fast cyclists seem to fail to observe her small dog on the dark tarmac paths,” she added.

The Council say there will still be plenty of space in the park for dogs to exercise: “Dogs do not have to be on a lead outside of the designated 'dog free' area and are permitted in all other areas of the park. The paths and green areas down the eastern and western side of the park remain unrestricted for dog access. Extensive areas around the park which already permit dog access have not been altered,” a spokesperson said.

As well as the two new play areas, the Japanese Garden itself is also being renovated, starting with the draining of the pond. “The restoration of the water fall will be done to a more traditional Japanese style. We are importing new rocks and the waterfall will be more dramatic,” said designer Jaima Uriarte. There will also be a new stone bridge and new stepping stones, while the current arched bridge will be repaved with flat paddlestones.

The Japanese Garden was created as part of the Japan-British Exhibition in 1910. The current restoration work is being carried out in conjunction with the Japanese Society, and the Japanese government have provided some of the funding.

The work is due to be finished around the end of April with a festival in the park scheduled for the end of May.

26 March 2010