Valentines Park Conservationists

History

As some of the images on this website prove, Valentines Park in its heyday was truly wonderful. Even as late as the mid-1980s, then Councillor Jeremy Smith was able truthfully to describe Valentines as "the jewel in the crown" of Redbridge's parks.

However, the Thatcher government's spending cuts and compulsory competitive tendering had no space for municipal pride and the long and sad decline of the park started at about this time. Lack of maintenance and funding and council disregard meant that by the end of the 1990s the park and its landscape were at serious risk. 

In 1998, several residents decided something had to be done to restore the park and formed the Valentines Park Conservationists (VPC). The group started by organising a seminar on the park and its history. This was an eye-opener for many residents who had not realised that the park contained elements of 18th, 19th and early 20th century landscapes and features. 

From this event, the group rapidly developed and by a combination of campaigning, practical work and active engagement with the council, started to make a difference in the park and attitudes towards it. The culmination of this work was the the successful £3million Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the park's restoration.

The VPC continued to work with the council, consultants and, eventually, the companies and individuals carrying out the restoration work during the restoration of the park . And, to some extent, the group's input and expertise are visible in the park as it is today.

At the end of 2009, the VPC decided to 'shut up shop' as it believed it had achieved most of the objectives it had set back in 1998 and the restoration had come to an end. The Friends of Valentines Mansion recognising the need for a group to represent park users, created a park sub-group at this time. Thereby, and in a somewhat unexpected way, realising the fact that park and mansion are one and the same - neither can exist without the other.

Projects

The VPC was always a very hands-on group and held regular, monthly gardening sessions around the mansion. In addition, the VPC organised several bigger projects, ie:

2001 The Big Dig: restoring the mansion’s east border, using a Regency-period planting scheme
2002 A Splash of Spring Colour: bulb planting around the mansion
2003 Planting in and around the mansion’s conservatory bed
2004 Hedge the Edge: planting a native species hedge in front of the mansion, by the Emerson Road railings
2006 Planting a Pathway: bulb planting beside the old golf field and under the mulberry trees near the mansion
2009 Going Down South: planting an Australian style garden by the Perth Road car park

Newsletters

The VPC's newsletters contain a wealth of information about the group's activities and the history of the park. Most issues also contained an illustration by local wildlife artist, Margaret Elvin. These have been reproduced  in the image gallery 'Seen in the park'.