Tuesday, 28 May 2013

a river running through it

Cassiobury Park -'a nobleman's residence in a magnificently timbered park'

It's four months now since I started my new career as a community ranger for Watford Borough Council. And what fun its been. I joined at a very exciting time, as the Council are in the round 2 stage of a £6.5m Heritage Lottery Funding bid to restore and improve Watford's premier green space, Cassiobury Park - and according to a survey, the nations third favourite park.

 Cassiobury Park- '...a magnificently timbered park'

It is the perfect job for me - around and about meeting so many different groups of people, volunteers, consultants, the visiting public, different user groups, visiting schools and much more.
I'm very often travelling down to London (only 15 minutes by train) for meetings and and lately on a round of visiting some of London's most prestigious urban parks. One the attractions for me of being a ranger is the sheer variety of the job and this particular role doesn't dissappoint! One minute, I'm organising a huge Fun day event, the next training up some volunteers to giving talks and presentations on the marvellous heritage of the park and arranging consultation events with various stakeholders and user groups.

a landmark of the park - the Cedar tree

Being a people's park, the area covers 190 acres of Green Flag parkland, including Whippendell Woods, a SSSI site which is awash in bluebells at the moment. It has the Grand Union canal running through it as well as the river Gade, and has something for everyone. There is a 1930 retro style Tea Pavillion, tennis courts, croquet and bowls clubs, football and cricket pitches, play areas, and paddling pools which families come from miles around so the kids can splash around. The park hosts a large nature reserve and wetland habitats with a multitude of wildlife.

the chain saw sculptor just a bit too noisy for this particular visitor - Fun Day at Cassiobury Park

Cassiobury Park has a great heritage - hence the Lottery Funding bid. Cassiobury House and the Earls who lived there were the toast of the counties and had many famous visitors, including the painter, JMW Turner, who painted various images of the park. The landscape designer, Humphrey Repton and Hugh May were also involved in creating the park. But the major designer who laid out the intial park and gardens was Moses Cook.

The park used to host some historic buildings. Cassiobury House, sadly demolished in 1927, alongside many other iconic buildings over the decades, was the residence of five of the twelve Earls of Essex with the 11th Earl, now a childless, retired teacher, living in a bungalow in Lancaster. The next Earl in waiting, an American grocer living in USA, will take his seat eventually but only genetically linked by being the great, great, great, great grandson of the childless 5th Earl's half brother's eldest son! A USA tv show recently brought the family over to Watford.

I certainly enjoy giving the heritage talks, with tales of the  beheading of the first two Earls and mysterious deaths in the Tower of London and with horseriding, headless ghosts of those Earls, who can be seen riding through the park on certain days of the year! (I'm going to have great fun scaring the kids on Halloween activities in the park!- tee hee!)

Rob Hopkins - Herts and Middx Wildlife Officer leading a guided wildlife walk in the park

When my father died back in March I thought it was the worst time to start a new job. In fact it was the best time. Although my boss was great about me taking time off so soon after starting to attend and organise the memorial, it has been a carthartic process for me and helped me get through by keeping my mind on a fabulous, exciting and varied job. Its still hard to go back to the family home as it seems very strange not seeing my father there anymore but I have some fantastic warm memories and they are always the ones I think of more than the sadness of his passing.

 Cassiobury Park

Of course living in Watford I'm now so close to London and I'm now a member of my all time favorite haunt, Ronnie Scotts Jazz club in Soho. Its so near its like living in London again. But I have the best of both worlds, a huge park and woodland space you can get lost in and which is only minutes from Watford's town centre, to being just a quick train ride away from the centre of the capital.

I've also been to see Saracens, the premier rugby team, play at their new ground in Mill Hill and shall being going more often next season, taking and wearing my Dad's rugby shirt that he always used to wear when watching the rugby on tv. But its great as a few of my colleagues at work like rugby (not to mention being passionate about Watford football club - the Hornets).

Cassio's wildlife
Other good news is my German friends that I met in Italy on my recent cycle ride, Hedi and Franz are coming over in October to visit me for a week. Well, Franz isn't coming this time but Hedi and her daughter Sabine are. I had a great time in Bavaria when I visited them last year, so I hope they like dear old Watford as much! I expect we will spend some time in London but we have got the Warner Bros Harry Potter studio tour here in Watford!

and a resident Heron !
Mum with our great friends and neighbours, Val and Pete in the park while on a recent visit
to Watford

an air ambulance lands in Cassiobury Park - no emergency though - just a PR visit
the air ambulance attracts the crowds in the park

when I grow up I want to be a.............
crowds looking in...
Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Bros studios in Watford.

a dog enjoying the River Gade in Cassiobury Park
the rustic bridge and the canal bridge in Cassiobury Park
So -  much to look forward to.
more tales and photos next time 
(c) copyright: all photos and text are copyright of Deborah Anne Brady