Newsletter 4

Welcome to the Friends of Wickford Memorial Park Winter newsletter December 2020

We are a constituted group of volunteers working with Basildon Council Parks and Countryside Manager and the Park Manager to safeguard and improve the park.

Message from our Chair, Kim Oakes

Welcome back to our Winter Newsletter. We know that there are many people who continue to use and rely on the park for their health and wellbeing. We are only a small group but we have achieved so much this year, notwithstanding the pandemic!
Personally I have found it such a blessing to be able to work in the park with a lovely group of volunteers as we continue to enhance the park experience for the benefit of the visitors. Some of the projects mentioned in the last newsletter have been achieved: replanting the Home Garden, Snowdrop Planting, painting the gates and starting work on refurbishing the Crazy Golf. Plus we have planted 4,700 bluebells around the park.

News in a Nutshell

  • Following the first lockdown Basildon Borough Council agreed that the Friends of the Park could resume their activities provided we carried out a risk assessment and followed the current social distancing rules. We had to stop work again at the start of the second lockdown but have now been given permission to carry on, again provided we follow the current social distancing guidelines.
  • We are very pleased to say that we now have 323 members and rising and have welcomed several new volunteers and children to our garden groups. Please come along and join in any events you see advertised although because of the weather most of our projects will now be ‘mothballed’ until the better weather in the Spring.
  • The 3 new bird boxes donated by Margaret Clark will be put up on trees in the wildflower garden ready for birds to nest in the Spring.
  • Various obstacles have cropped up to stop our environment group getting going but this will be back on the agenda in the Spring
  • In the last newsletter we mentioned having a pumpkin competition. Sadly Covid intervened and we had to cancel but this will be on out list of events for the future. We are also planning a competition of park photographs with the best of the photos being included on our new website.
  • Setting up a website has been on the group’s agenda since we started and we are very fortunate that Mike Bromley has stepped in with much needed help and is currently finalising the design of our web page. We are pleased to say it will be live very soon and are very grateful to Mike for the help that he is given us.
  • The area that was formerly Beauchamps playing field is to become part of the park and will add approximately 22 acres to the existing park. This is very exciting opportunity as Basildon Council have submitted plans to develop the area with a new woodland, community orchard, cycle path and wildflower and wetland areas.

Recent Events

Although the war memorial itself is outside of the park gates the group do keep it tidy and plant a few donated plants in the flower beds. Before this year’s covid restricted ceremony we had a good tidy up and the Park Manager arranged for the paving to be jet washed by a Council contractor, the was flag pole cleaned and the a new flag raised to replaced the old frayed one.

Visitors to the Home Front Heroes garden in early November may have noticed the knitted poppies. These were made by Margaret Clarke, one of the members of our group, in honour of the people commemorated in the garden.

At the request of a local resident a small group of volunteers cleared an alleyway giving access to the park from Beauchamps Drive. The weeds were cleared and the bushes and overhanging tree branches cut back. This alleyway is not part of the park but we were pleased to be able to do it as it is used by lots of school children, families and dog walkers to access the park.

Painting the park gates and fence

A keen group of volunteers made a very good job of brushing down and repainting the Highcliffe Road park gates and fence. They certainly look much smarter and hopefully the maintenance will keep them servicable for a little longer. The paint and materials were provided by Basildon Council Parks department.

The Home Front Heroes Garden

Our big project is renovating the Home Front Garden. We started off by weeding and taking out any dead plants in the centre bed and back border but we were later advised that by far the best course of action was to empty the bed and start again. We did manage to salvage some of the shrubs and plants and have moved them into the raised bed and the side borders.

Two of our members, Tracy and Margaret worked out a planting plan giving lots of thought to colour and form as well as providing food for insects and drought tolerance. Basildon Council very generously provided the plants including a Liquid Amber tree. The picture below is how we hope our tree will look in a few years time. We have also planted spring bulbs and cyclamen for autumn colour. This is an ongoing project as we need to see how the new plants thrive and develop. We also want to screen the fence behind the back border to disguise the boot camp equipment stored there.


The group has worked very hard to plant approximately 4,700 (no I didn’t count them) English Bluebells in and around the wild flower meadow and under the trees all over the park. The majority of the bulbs were provided for us by Basildon Council Parks department and 300 were bought by the Friends group. We are hoping some of the bulbs will flower this coming Spring but they do take a few years to establish and naturalise. Once the bulbs have settled in they will begin to increase in number year on year and create a lovely picture each Spring for years to come.

We chose our native Bluebells because they are becoming increasing scarce as the Spanish bluebell is a much more vigorous plant and if allowed to do so will take over. The bluebell is a protected plant under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which means that picking the flowers and digging up the bulbs is prohibited. Bluebells do not thrive if the leaves are damaged by being walked on them so we would ask that people and dogs enjoy the specticle but leave the plants and bulbs untouched for others to appreciate.

Crazy Golf

The group have made a start renovating the Crazy Golf by cleaning away the weeds and accumulated debris. Repairing and painting started on the first four holes but the project will now be put on hold until the weather improves. As well as providing the materials for the renovation the Council have given us two very sturdy reclaimed benches to go in the Crazy Golf area.

These are being repainted and renovated by a small group of handy volunteers and securely fixed in the enclosure by the Council contractor along with the tyres which will become planters representing animals. A tree donated by Tracy Render will be planted in the centre of the largest tyre.

New Projects

Please check on our Facebook and web pages for further information about future events

Like everyone else our activities have been severely restricted by the Covid 19 pandemic. The group have been able to carry on outside and have kept in contact with each other and park managers by messenger and zoom. We are coming to the end of our first year which despite everything we think has been very enjoyable and productive. Work parties will stop for now and hopefully start again in the Spring when the weather improves.

So far our plans for 2021 include :

  • Planting more whips (rooted cuttings) provided by the Woodland Trust in the Silver Jubilee Wood.
  • Continue with the maintenance and replanting of the Home Front Heroes garden.
  • Finish renovating the crazy golf holes, benches and planters.
  • Maintain the entrances to the park to keep them tidy and weed free.
  • Discuss ideas for new projects with the Park staff and put together a plan for the future. One of the suggested areas for improvement is the Heroes Arboretum near the Runwell Road entrance.
  • Carry out a survey of the existing signs and look at how this can be updated and improved.
  • Look at ways we can raise funds to improve the environment in the park for the birds, bats, insects and wildlife generally

Thanks go to

Basildon Borough Council Park staff for their enthusiastic support, Huttons café for the coffee, all the volunteers who have given their time and worked so hard on our various projects and anyone who has donate time, money and equipment. Thanks also go to those who have posted photos of the park, some of which may have been used in this newsletter.