Sunday, 7 February 2016

Folkestone Gardens and Quietway work

I regularly go through Folkestone Gardens and am often saddened by the neglect and abuse this little park suffers.

With gates wide enough to admit cars at two sides of the park, it often fell victim to fly-tipping and I once witnessed a motorist trying to drive a car through the park on the footpath and flying into a rage when a dog-walker challenged him. Eventually the park managers clocked that it might be a good idea to restrict access at these gates, and the problems stopped for a while.

Where once was shrubbery...
Meanwhile the vicious 'pruning' exercised by Glendale last year saw the bushes and trees decimated to a shadow of their former selves, and problems with rough sleepers using wood from the remaining trees to create campfires does not help. is a campsite

As part of the implementation of TFL's new Quietway cycle routes, the council has been able to leverage some funds to make improvements to Folkestone Gardens, and both of these projects are under construction concurrently, albeit at a snail's pace.

A new skateboard park is being built at the east end of the gardens, as part of a scheme that was intended to make much better use of space in what was originally a somewhat sprawling play area. This came out of an initiative by a youth group who successfully applied for a grant of £50k towards improvements to the piss poor skate ramps that were already in the park. The council weighed in with a further £225k from section 106 funds and carried out a consultation exercise about what it proposed for the new 'skate and play' park.  

The consultation document had some plans of how the skate and play park would look.

Unsurprisingly, given the name, and the published plans, local people were expecting that there would be some new 'play' as well as some new 'skate'. Now that the work is almost finished, however, it has become clear that the new 'play' is just the old 'play' in a smaller area. 

Promises of new equipment have not materialised, and it seems that the contractors have just lifted the old play equipment and moved it to the other side of the play area. 

One beacon of hope is that the disused toilet block next to the road has been given planning permission to be refurbished and opened as a cafe. I suspect a new roof may be necessary, but it will be good to have this rotting shell brought back to life.

As far as the 'Quietway' goes, the paths through the park have been made bigger, presumably to accommodate cyclists as well as pedestrians. But they seem oversized to me, especially the huge junction by the old toilet block - I've been using the park for years and the only conflict I've ever witnessed on the footpaths was the aforementioned car driver and dog walker. I think the park would have been better with a bit more grass left intact.

It will be a great improvement to have better surfacing in the tunnel between the park and Gosterwood Street, which has always been a bit of a gloomy route at night and prone to fly-tipping. Let's hope that there will be lighting too, which might deter some of this abuse.

I was disappointed to read in Lewisham Cyclists response to the plans for the quiet way that in Folkestone Gardens they made a plea for 'significant vegetation clearance around the route to make it more visible, particularly on corners'. Well they certainly got that.

I found this comment particularly unnecessary because there are two routes through the park; the one with the vegetation, blind corners and absolutely no lighting, and another one with very little in the way of blind corners, and which is lit by the street lights at night. In the summer I tend to take the former, in the winter I take the latter. They both lead to the same place. There is also a perfectly reasonable, direct alternative on the road for anyone who feels uncomfortable using the park when it's dark.

It does beg the question of whether it's a park or a cycle route with some greenery. I would like to see them co-existing happily, but the recent changes seem to be putting more emphasis on cycle access than on the green environment, wildlife and somewhere that can be quietly enjoyed by all.

As an aside, and with reference to my post about the high street rat-running problems, the initial plans for the quietway included a road closure at the junction of Childers St and Rolt St, but this was vetoed by local people who didn't want to have their driving routes impacted. I thought it was a great idea and suspect if it had gone ahead we wouldn't now be faced with the continued problem of rat-running on the high street! 


Anonymous said...

I agree that it is a shame about the savaging of the bushes, it would also be good if they could do something about the rats that feed off the food left for the ducks. It does seem odd that so much money was spent on the skatepark and nothing done to the old play area except for it being relocated. One thing is certain though, it will be busier than it was before, at the weekend it was packed with trespassing skaters trying it out for the first time - even though work is still in progress. Good luck to who ever opens a cafe there, I just can't see there is the footfall for a cafe, even with the skaters. Just look what has become of all the cafe's that failed where the Polish corner shop now resides (although a shop there is welcome)

Anonymous said...

The colour scheme of the quietway is purple apparently so there will be purple lights in the Gosterwood tunnel and normal white ones. This will be an improvement. One of the mounds has been removed which is a shame it blocked the noise and made this little park calmer. It's in danger of becoming a concreted space with a few trees rather than a park.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, it is a shame about the mound being removed. I would also be interested to know what is happening to the park at the Surrey Canal Road end. A triangular swath of grass has been dug up and there appears to be some pipes visible in the soil. Are they planning to widen the pavement or is it something less exciting?

Unknown said...

The park is now unsafe for me to bring my autistic son to as they have removed the gates and built a new entrance facing the road. Also I would like to know where the proposed sandpit is? And where are the lights in the arch?

Unknown said...

Sadly the area is now an all day hangout for unemployed young men who sit and smoke wee

Unknown said...

Sadly the area is now an all day hangout for unemployed young men who sit and smoke wee

DeptfordFolk said...

DeptfordFolk is the park user group for Deptford Park and Folkestone Gardens. We are on Email, Twitter and FaceBook. Would love to hear your views and concerns about this and any other park related issues. We are also planning events and activities for everyone to get involved with. All ideas welcome.

Anonymous said...

I'm local. I didn't want them to block off Childers street because I didn't think emergency services could get in to the area. Turns out this is true. I don't drive but I do want a guarantee the fire engine can get in. And home deliveries too. The council ruined the park though. Apparently they had to 'improve sight lines' so now the lovely mounds that made the park seem like an oasis are gone. The skate park is bleak as is the playground. I know some people in the Childers street apartments. They are housed by a charity/housing association because they have fled domestic violence. Often with children. Now they feel unsafe with all the men around the skate park.

Deptford Dame said...

@anon 0.08 the proposed closure of Childers St was east of the junction with Rolt Street. Emergency vehicles (and other vehicles) would still have been able to access the area from either side of the closure.

nic said...

It seems there are quite a few people disappointed which is a tragedy really.

I love the ambitions for the park. It just seems so jumbled. Haphazard even.

Obviously you can't please everybody.

The skate park should be self contained and not encroaching by any means on the other play areas.

Personally, the pond is the best feature of the park and I feel the plan should have emanated and enhanced concentrically from that space.

I live a hundred metres from the spot and was completely unaware of any consultation and would love to have seen the community coming together and creating an absolute haven.

To be honest we need to be more connected and mobilised in the first place.

Why / how did we lack the zeal to instill some real gusto in the council to create a space which reflects our hopes and expectations?

Why did we let the council/publicly owned toilet block languish as it did for two decades or more? What an amazing space, sitting derelict it was.

Anonymous said...

I have two young children and they were very excited like most of the other children who live near by about the new changes that where going to be made to the park; a sand pit, new basketball area sitting area and new playground equipment.
Sounds perfect somewhere where children can play after school and on school holidays.

Months later the park has a massive skate area which is over run by big men skating on it all day(why are they not in work or at college!)the skate area is also full of rubbish.

There is no sign of new playground equipment just the same old rotting swings and slides from before. there is no gate up so dogs can run free in the so called play area and we all now that not all dog owners pick up their dog mess!.

And as for the arch way which was closed for months all they have done is put down new flooring. What happened to the lighting the council said they where going to put in place.


I live on childers Street and this was the closest play area for me to take my children to and now we have to walk all the way to Deptford Park.

Did they spend all the money on the skating area!!!!!

Lewisham girl said...

It's fantastic for skaters and scooters!!!
My kids love it.
There are so many great playgrounds but hardly any good skateparks. It's time there was more for the older kids and teenagers.

Lewisham girl said...

There does need to be more bins.

Lewisham girl said...

Everybody is really anti unemployed people....
How do you know they what they do for a living????
Zero hours contracts perhaps??? Collage students... Freelancers, artists.
At least they are skating...
These places are for everyone not just yummy mummy's and Ella's kitchen.

Unknown said...

I am a cyclist and I use this route quite a lot. I was shocked to see how much of the park, particularly the Surrey Canal Road end, has been covered in concrete. I've never found the route congested although the width of the path now indicates they're expecting this to change.

When cycling through this park, I have always respected pedestrians and other inhabitants (especially the ducks) by keeping my speed down. I really hope these changes aren't meant to encourage careless racers abusing the route and endangering others.

I also hope that this isn't the beginning of a sinister scheme to whittle away such a lovely bit of green down to a single manageable flower bed.

PeckhamBog said...

I visited the Skatepark on a Saturday at 11:00 to have a look for future use. It was empty to my surprise. The bowl looks very attractive for skating. I'm a shift worker and over 50, so please don't assume I'm unemployed if you see me there during the week.

spoon said...

I live around a corner from the park and was completely unaware of any consultation. But that goes down to every development (the new buildings alongside the railway that will be overlooking our council estate now) - shameful from Lewisham Council!

I love the skate-ramp though. The surface is smooth and design of it is good. My kids often have a go on scooters or bikes and the teenagers and young adults are friendly and accommodating.

The rest of the playground is a joke. Non-functioning rusting structures. Nowhere to sit.

Not enough light in the park, don't feel safe in the dark and wouldn't go there jogging. The Cafe is overpriced and I hardly see any people inside.