One of the benefits of the current pandemic situation is that we are all appreciating the value of local green spaces, parklands and nature far more than perhaps we did. Hopefully this will be reflected in future planning and land-use policies to avoid concentrated urban developments with minimal outdoor space such as in Vauxhall where you can see the opportunity that has been missed as tower block marches alongside tower block, every one in a different architectural style.
My exercise regime involves visiting spaces that I have enjoyed in the past and some, like King George’s Park that I have never visited before, though I have driven past it or sat on a bus going past it at least once a week over the last 20 years – it is a hidden asset hidden behind other developments with, currently, a presence to the street which is not attractive due to the hoardings related to works for the Thames Tideway Super Sewer Project which, once complete and covered over, will result in a new attractive corner to the Park.
Originally called Southfields Park, King George’s Park was opened by King George V in 1923 adjacent to the River Wandle which runs from Surrey through Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth to the River Thames and created a small lake which wildlife enjoy, especially at this time of year. There is an expansive grassy area, enjoyed by local people, and an avenue of cherry trees, a play area, adventure playground and one o’clock club for children, sports pitches, a leisure centre, bowling green and tennis courts, which will gradually come back into use as government guidelines allow.
The Park has seen various changes over the years – for example it had an open air swimming pool which closed in 1993 – but most of the changes have been, and continue to be, around it starting with the uninspiring 1970′s redevelopment of the town centre around the Arndale Centre (which has the River Wandle running underneath in a culvert), opened in 1971 and now known as Southside, with various residential tower blocks of their era above it. It now seems astonishing that we should have so discarded natural assets in the late 20th century in the name of commercial development that we allowed the river to disappear underneath a shopping centre. Happily the river is making a comeback with the Ram Quarter development north of Southside.
Redevelopment continues as former industrial sites are transformed in a rich variety of architectural styles – and to Wandsworth’s credit they are generally of high quality. It is beginning to feel a little like Central Park in New York – is that good or bad? The swans don’t seem to mind….