Banking on future at Barclay Park
PUBLISHED: 13:29 01 August 2013 | UPDATED: 13:29 01 August 2013
A project to restore the crowning glory of a much-loved Hoddesdon park is celebrated by Jon Collins, projects officer at the Countryside Management Service
When the Barclay family gifted the people of Hoddesdon part of their estate in the 1930s, they hoped that the site would be loved and enjoyed for decades to come. Now 76 years on from its grand opening, Barclay Park is still a highly-popular and much-loved green space which has recently been the subject of a large Heritage Lottery-funded improvement project. This successful scheme led by Broxbourne Borough Council and the Friends of Barclay Park has helped the park remain an important space for both people and wildlife.
Barclay Park once formed part of the High Leigh Estate, the family home of Robert Barclay (1843 to 1921) of the prestigious banking dynasty. He took ownership of the estate in 1871 and over the next 50 years made a number of improvements. Some of the most significant additions were designed and built by the internationally-renowned James Pulham & Son, based in Broxbourne. The firm created such features as the ornamental bridge which can still be seen in the park today.
The Barclays were a deeply Christian family and made a great number of charitable contributions to the local community. In 1880 they donated a parcel of land to be used as a cricket field by Hoddesdon Working Men’s Club, followed by an additional area for use as a football ground. In 1899, the family commissioned the ornamental lake to be dug in the park in order to give much-needed employment to Hoddesdon men.
Following the death of Robert Barclay, the family chose to donate a 7.4 -hectare area of the estate to the people of Hoddesdon in celebration of King George V’s silver jubilee. It was renamed Barclay Park and officially opened on May 12, 1937 with trees planted to celebrate the coronation of King George VI.
Barclay Park has remained throughout the years a locally-significant green space containing a variety of natural habitats and recreational facilities. However, over the past decade or so the condition of the lake had degraded to a point that the banks were suffering from erosion, water quality was poor, and blue-green algae bloom would spread in hot weather.
With the guidance and support of site owner, Broxbourne Borough Council, the Friends of Barclay Park was formed to try and aid the restoration of the lake. In May 2012, this 100-strong group of volunteers was successful in securing a grant of £75,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund which, in addition to funds already raised, allowed the project to commence.
The friends and the council oversaw conservation works including dredging of the lake and repair to the banks through the use of coir rolls planted with wetland plant species. A reed bed area was created for nesting waterfowl. The wetland improvement works were also supported by the creation of a new wet meadow in a naturally damp area of the park.
Hertfordshire County Council’s Countryside Management Service was engaged to help the friends and the council commission six new illustrated interpretation boards describing the park’s history and wildlife. The service works in partnership with Broxbourne Borough Council on projects that enhance landscape and biodiversity and encourage people to understand and enjoy the countryside. The new signage was installed by one of the group’s teams of practical conservation volunteers that work on projects throughout the county.
The beautiful lake at the park’s centre is once again a vibrant feature of Barclay Park and an important habitat for wildlife. Grey heron can often be seen fishing from the lake island, and a pair of little egrets have recently become regular visitors. New planting around the lake and in the wetland meadow will see the emergence of such plant species as purple loosestrife, marsh marigold and yellow flag iris, which will help to encourage insect populations. Visitors certainly have a lot to look out for.