On Saturday 8th August John and Philip from Tilhill led a guided walk through Canons Grounds to bring members of the local community up to date on the progress of the landscape works. We are really grateful to the Tilhill team for providing us with insights into all the different aspects of the landscape improvements. Here’s an overview of the insights and some photographs from a great event.
The running track was originally built in 1924 and the aim of the restoration is to be as sympathetic as possible to the track’s early days, when it was known as ‘The News of the World Sports Club Running Track’.
It’s clear to see that the improvements to the track are taking shape, but what’s missing at the moment is the surfacing. The first approved sample we received for the surface was too light in colour to be suitable, so we’re now exploring other options.
It was also really exciting to hear about the wildflower planting for the area which is going to look great and will be beneficial for wildlife. We also discussed the interpretation signage that will be installed nearby so that visitors can find out about the heritage of the running track.
Community Garden and Play Area
The new community garden and play area are situated between the new car park and the entrance to the leisure centre. Most visitors will approach this area from the new car park so the entrance has been widened and the historic wall restored.
The space at the moment is very much looking like a blank canvas, as it’s all very much still in the demolition phase, but it will soon begin to take shape.
The version of the walled garden that we see today dates back to when Robert Cranmer took over The Canons in the 1760s.
The vision for garden is to restore it to its former glory with beautiful planting and to create a peaceful space for visitors to relax in.
Walking along the path to the walled garden you can straight away feel a new sense of openness to the area. This is a result of Tilhill reducing the height of the yew hedge that runs alongside the path. The top of the hedge will take a couple of years to re-establish and will be kept low in order to maintain visibility across the area.
Going in to the garden the first thing we noticed was the new brickwork on the surface. The new bricks match the originals (albeit a bit brighter) in order to be as sympathetic as possible to the heritage of the garden. Benches within the garden are also being restored we will be working with the Friends of the Canons on the new planting scheme.
The start of work to the medieval pond was delayed due to nesting coots and moorhens. However, now that the Tilhill team are satisfied that the birds are safe, they have been able to get started and the works are progressing well.
Tilhill have been busy working through the relevant procedures to safely remove the silt from the pond, as well as the floating pennywort (an invasive species) that was identified. Once this stage is complete it will be time to install the new liner and the pond can start being refilled with water.
It was really interesting to hear about the ecological assessments that Tilhill are undertaking throughout the project and the overall aim is to create a habitat that is supportive to an array of wildlife. The new planting scheme will definitely play a big part of this and will encourage biodiversity in the area.
Works on the new car park are nearing completion, with just the light columns and entry barrier left to be installed. Unfortunately Covid 19 has affected the supply chains for the light column supplier which means that we do not yet have a date for when they will be fitted. We are really grateful for everyone’s patience whilst we complete the car park and are looking forward to welcoming you to the new and improved space very soon.
Future Engagement with Tilhill
We’re really excited about Tilhill’s future community engagement plans which will take place over autumn:
Session to identify plants in the walled garden
Session to learn about pruning and training
Details will be posted on the website in due course.