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20 June 2007

Horniman Gardens Revamp

The Horniman Museum is planning a major overhaul of its much-loved gardens and has carried out the first stage of its consultation process. All the suggestions and comments made by local people and users of the gardens have been passed on to the landscape architects, Land Use Consultants (LUC), who have now produced their first draft design. On 18th June, two members of the Forest Hill Society Committee – together with representatives of other local groups - were invited to view these plans. LUC – one of the UK’s leading environmental and design consultancies – presented its vision for the Horniman Gardens.

OVERVIEW

LUC explained that the Horniman Gardens have evolved in a piecemeal fashion over the years and, as a result, there is no cohesive design to the layout. There is little integration between the Museum and the Gardens. The design team wants to rectify that and devise a garden, which creates a closer relationship between the two.

As a result of the consultation, several key requests came up again and again. Adults wanted water features. Younger users of the Gardens wanted to keep the kick-about area and remove the dog poo from the grass!

FIRST DRAFT – KEY FEATURES

The designers want to realign many of the existing paths, getting rid of some completely, so that there is a more fluid feel to the Gardens. They feel this will help people move naturally from the Museum itself into the centre of the Gardens.

The focus of the Gardens would be the central avenue, which would be upgraded.

They suggest relocating the hugely popular (but not very attractive) animal enclosure closer to the back of the Museum so that it is better integrated.

The existing sunken garden could be given a water feature of some sort.

The hardstanding around the bandstand is seen as a problem area, which has become an eyesore over the years. LUC suggest reducing the width of this area by bringing in additional planting. They would like to improve the panoramic views by removing some trees.

The designers want to restore the bandstand. This would include restoring the glazing at the back.

The old paddling pool/kick-about area would be turned back into a more natural pool as part of an expanded nature area. This pool could be linked thematically with the Horniman’s new aquarium. The pool would be fed by harvesting water from the hardstanding area via a series of small pools.

Another quite radical idea is to bring the Nature Trail into the Gardens by changing the existing boundaries of the cycle path and footpath (obviously, subject to approval from Lewisham Council). The designers feel the Nature Trail is an underused resource partly because it is a dead end. So they would like to build some kind a facility at the Langton Rise end – London Wildlife Trust have expressed an interest – or perhaps key worker housing. This would then provide access to the Nature Trail from that end and the buildings would bring a form of passive security.

The designers suggest introducing a wild play area at the South Circular end of the Nature Trail for young children. Instead of metal climbing frames and swings etc it would make use of natural materials such as sand, gravel and logs for children to explore and climb. A more teen-friendly facility could be located over the road in the Horniman Triangle.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Horniman team was at pains to stress that these designs are at a very early stage and some of the points mentioned above have already been modified. Nothing has been decided yet and, indeed, no funding has been secured. So this is still very much a work in progress and it’s good to know that they value the input of local groups and users.

Those of us at this meeting asked a lot of questions, made a lot of suggestions and these were noted and will feed back into the design process. For example, there were concerns about the realignment and loss of some paths. And there was a plea to keep the kick-about area because it is such a good meeting point for older children.

So, the design process continues. Eventually it will form part of the application for Lottery funding. If that bid is successful, the final design details will be worked out.

This is a long-term project and it’s important for local people to stay involved. We’ll keep you up-to-date with developments via our website and Newsletter.

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