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Harmony in Composers Park

PUBLISHED: 14:40 08 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:40 08 September 2014

Tufted vetch

Tufted vetch

Archant

Countryside Management Service projects officer Paul Evans explains a project to allow people and wildlife to live in harmony at Composers Park in Elstree

Bird foot trefoil in the meadowBird foot trefoil in the meadow

On the edge of Elstree is Composers Park, a hidden gem of rich and colourful wildflower meadows criss-crossed with hedgerows and paths. Hay meadows like these have suffered dramatic declines, with a staggering 97 per cent lost between 1930 and 1983, making those that survive here important areas for wildlife at both a county and national level. The Countryside Management Service, in partnership with the landowner, Hertsmere Borough Council, has been working to enhance the park for both wildlife and people.

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Enhancing habitats.

In 2012, CMS developed a project to take forward the aspiration of Hertsmere Borough Council to enhance the park’s wildlife and make it more welcoming and accessible in general. The authority wanted to increase use of the area by making more local people aware of this attractive and peaceful greenspace on their doorstep. The local community fed into the proposals for a People and Wildlife Project through a consultation day and questionnaires. The Heritage Lottery Fund was then approached for funding and £56,300 was secured to take the project forward. This amount was boosted by contributions from local councillors through a ward- improvement initiative and Hertsmere Borough Council.

Selfheal prunella vulgarisSelfheal prunella vulgaris

From spring to summer, the park’s meadows are peppered with ever-changing colour provided by wildflowers, from the yellows of meadow buttercup and white of the delicate lesser ttitchwort to the pink of black knapweed (above) and purple of tufted vetch. During the summer, the meadows are also alive with insects like the marbled white and meadow brown butterflies and common blue damselfly.

Scrub that was encroaching on to the meadows has been cleared back to old hedgerows to give wildflowers more space to thrive. A new pond has also been dug to provide habitats for wetland wildlife like smooth newts and common frogs.

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Improving facilities.

At the park’s centre is a children’s play area, basketball hoop and a five-a-side pitch. The project also funded the addition of challenging natural-play equipment to provide older children with play opportunities that were previously unavailable and to act as a spring- board to exploring and playing in the natural environment.

Entrances have been made more welcoming and accessible with the opening up of sightlines, the installation of new easy-access gates, attractive entrance markers and an interpretation/welcome panel highlighting the features of the park. The centrepiece to this strategy has been the commissioning of an entrance feature by a sculptor working in metal. Inspired by the park and located next to the main Watford Road, it captures the attention of passers-by and encourages them to visit and explore the park.

To highlight the park to a wider audience, site leaflets have been distributed to local residents and a poster of the interpretation board and leaflets given to local businesses, schools and hotels to display.

The project has been a great success and momentum will continue in the future management of the site. The greater use and appreciation of the park by the local community and users from further afield will help conserve this important greenspace and its wildlife for generations to come.

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