The Friends of Agnes Riley Gardens are a group of local people who give their time freely to improve Agnes Riley Gardens for the benefit of people living and working in the area. We, the Friends, want the whole community to enjoy the park.
The Friends have done a lot of work in the park and want to do more. We work with the Council on how the park should be maintained – within the resources available.
The Council consults with us on improvements to the park. We recently talked to Council officers about investment in some new equipment in the playground. We visited the One O’Clock Club in the park and a local primary school and talked to parents and carers to get some ideas about the kind of new equipment children and their parents thought would be a good addition to the playground. The new equipment has now been installed and we see that lots of children enjoy using it.
Some of the old equipment, such as the helicopter and the swings, were given a new coat of paint too. When Covid restrictions are fully lifted the Friends will be revitalising and maintaining some planting in the old sandpit area.
The Friends organise events in the park. In 2019, we held an Autumn Fair, a Hallowe’en pumpkin carving and Treasure Hunt and, just before Christmas, a Meet Santa event. We hold events to draw more people into the park, to get them involved in their local community as well as to raise funds for our activities and projects.
Our big project in 2018 was the re-opening of the paddling pool which we finally achieved towards the end of the season: it was much appreciated by local children and carers. We opened it again in 2019 and it was in use every day that the weather was good from the end of June to the end of September. This meant volunteers from the Friends turning up every day to fill and empty the pool and cleaning and checking it to make sure it was safe to use. We always need more volunteers for this to lighten the load for the existing ones. Training is provided.
Sadly the Covid restrictions in 2020 meant that we would have been unable to operate the paddling pool safely and so regretfully took the decision not to open it. The Friends await anxiously to see whether conditions in the summer of 2021 will permit us to open the paddling pool again. In the meantime, we are investigating how much it would cost to refurbish the fabric of the pool. Although we managed to raise grant money to part fund, with the Council, the installation of a new pump and an upgrade to the electrical circuits, the pool itself needs still some attention. As it is, we have a constant battle to keep the surface safe for small feet. The mosaic tiles are attractive but, being now quite old, tend to crack and split. Hence the ever increasing patches of waterproof cement! We would love to be able to get it resurfaced.
A few years ago, we held an event inviting local residents to come along and talk to us about what they wanted to see in the park. We talked to them about new uses for the depot buildings at the Atkins Road end of the park. Lots of people wanted there to be a café in the park. The Friends would be very willing to work with anyone who has ideas about how to make this happen.
You may have noticed some new gates in the park – at the Atkins Road end and a smaller one to the community garden. A long time ago, back in 2008, Clapham Park Project held a competition for local children to design new gates for the park. The winning design was published in CPP’s magazine, Park Life, but that is as far as it went at that time. There was never enough money or energy to turn the design into a reality. But some money eventually came long – from contributions made by developers to the Council as part of the planning process – and the gates are now being installed. New gates for the Poynders Road end of the park are currently being fabricated and we look forward to their installation to give the park the presence it deserves on the South Circular.
A big part of the activities of the Friends group is the running of the community garden near the Poynders Road entrance to the park. You can read more about the community garden here.