Taking centre stage at the opening was a new statue of Greek poet, Sappho, replacing one which stood in the Gardens until it was stolen in the 1990s. Helping Cllr Michael Weeks, chairman of NHDC, unveil the statue was Margaret Harkness, longstanding Letchworth resident who attended the original opening of the Memorial Gardens in 1936.
Mrs Harkness said: “I’m delighted to be part of this special occasion. It all brings back childhood memories, I’ve spent many a happy hour dabbling in Pix Brook, and swinging from a particular tree in the Gardens. I’m glad Sappho is back in her rightful place, she was always a special part of my childhood.”
As part of the ceremony, a time capsule was buried in the grounds of the new-look Gardens to provide a snapshot of Letchworth in 2011. It included various memories of the Gardens and nearby Mrs Howard Hall, a summary of the work that has been carried out by UPM Tilhill and laminated front pages of the week’s local newspapers.
Musical entertainment was provided by drumming groups Garden City Samba and the Slapskins Djembe Workshop, the Letchworth Town Band and NHDC’s Play Rangers kept children entertained
Cllr Ian Knighton, NHDC’s portfolio holder for leisure, said: “It was great to see so many people coming along to celebrate the opening of the Gardens, and we were very lucky that the forecast rain didn’t materialise.
Peter Middleton, UPM Tilhill’s Commercial Director, added: “We are delighted and proud to have been involved in this extremely important project which will be a wonderful asset to the local community and one that they will be able to enjoy for many years to come. Everyone involved has worked extremely hard and to a very high standard. We are very pleased with the outcome and now working hard to complete the work to the park area.”
Howard Park and Gardens was created more than 100 years ago as a central part of a pioneering urban experiment to create the world’s first garden city.
LDA Design has been working as lead designer, landscape architect and contract administrator on the project since 2006.
Stephanie Bassford, Project Landscape Architect at LDA Design, said: “Howard Park and Gardens is an important civic and community space in Letchworth Garden City which needed new life breathing into it to see it through the next 100 years.”
She commended UPM Tilhill’s high quality of workmanship and was confident that the overall vision would be achieved which was to: rediscover the Garden City ideals for Howard Park and Gardens placing it, once again, at the heart of the community; make it a vibrant place valued for its history, with its own special identity, where people find beauty and a sense of pride; make it an accessible place where people feel welcome, can come together, be involved or just find something to enjoy and a place managed by the community for the community.
Stephanie was delighted to see people enjoying the opening event, using Howard Gardens as intended, and to receive positive feedback from the public on the day.
UPM Tilhill’s work involves hard and soft landscaping to preserve the historic importance of the site, as well as new elements that will broaden the use of the park. The team is responsible for all construction, mechanical and electrical elements of the project while refurbishing a paddling pool, creating improved play areas and building new routes through and around the park. Pix Brook, a stream running alongside the park, is having a new bridge built and new facilities will be introduced for visitors, including a new building housing a kiosk for refreshments, modern toilets and pump room as well as a striking amphitheatre.
Ecological work has also been an important part of the project with UPM Tilhill supplying timber to make 30 bat and bird boxes with local children. The company’s Ecologist Andrea Gannon is working closely with the council, community group Groundwork Hertfordshire and local school children to improve the habitat for bats and birds and provide homes where they can breed safely. As well as bats and birds, Andrea is making sure that the population of rare black squirrels living in the park is looked after and that any tree work takes their needs into account.
Funding for the £2.7 million scheme has come largely from the Parks for People programme funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund. The project will conserve the historic importance of the park and gardens and aims to increase the range of people using the park.
For further information contact: Suzi Christie PR Consultant for UPM Tilhill on 01435 830031 or at suzi@blueberry-
LDA Design Media Contacts
Sophie Eastwood, Holistic T 07709 359 529 E Sophie@holisticgroup.co.uk
Carol Walsh, LDA Design T: 01865 887050 E: carol.walsh@
Notes to Editors:
UPM Tilhill is the UK’s largest timber harvesting and forest management company. It harvests and markets over 2.0 million tonnes out of a UK market in excess of 8 million tonnes per year. The company provides a full range of consultancy and contracting services to the forest owner and forestry investor. It also provides market leading services in utility arboriculture and commercial landscaping throughout the UK. Further information is available on the company’s website at www.upm-tilhill.com