Wanstead Park was highlighted in the London Parks and Gardens Trust summer lecture on 26 June, given by Dr Nigel Barker, English Heritage’s Planning and Conservation Director for London.
Titled “Reclaiming London’s Lost Landscapes”, the event took place at the Garden Museum next to Lambeth Palace. The speaker was originally scheduled to be Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage. However, Dr Thurley had been called to a meeting with the Secretary of State concerning the forthcoming restructuring of English Heritage.
Dr Barker began by outlining the history of the “At Risk” register. He then set out the principles used to add sites to the register, illustrated with examples, and discussed how the register was used.
Wanstead Park was the first of three more detailed case studies. Dr Barker described the process of getting the park off the register as being likely to be “a long journey”. However, the first steps had been taken with the draft Conservation Statement produced by Chris Blandford Associates in 2011, which had been part-funded by English Heritage. Very recently, the Strategic Assessment undertaken by Compass Archaeology had brought together specialists from a variety of disciplines to deepen understanding of the historic landscape. Their conclusion was that “Wanstead Park is even more important than we thought”. Dr Barker said that he was very pleased that the Corporation of London, which managed the public park, had found funding for a large-scale hydrology survey, as the park’s historic lake system was in a parlous condition due to leakage and other problems.
Dr Barker’s other chosen case studies were Gunnersbury Park and Kensal Green Cemetery, which were both a little further down the road to recovery. He ended on an upbeat note with Chiswick Park, which he held up as a success story and, perhaps, a future model for other threatened landscapes.