Tag Archives: orchard

Negotiating the orchard walk

By New Year we hope there will be a new all-weather walk by the orchard. Together with the new pedestrian span of Cow Bridge, this will give a pleasant circular stroll across the Lea and back via the filter beds.
The path follows the
desire line near the bench

MUG committee member, and designer, Harry Hewat researched a low-impact method which allows the path to run unobtrusively among the big waterside trees. The surface will be gravel chosen to look as natural as possible.

The committee has been working with council officers on this project since April (background here), when the group decided (minutes here) it would like a path, so long as the route, width and surface are right for the orchard area.

Worn ground shows where people like to walk behind the thicket
The walk will link to
the footbridge

The original council proposal took a line through the middle of this space, since it had to steer clear of trees because the proposed building method would have damaged the roots. MUG’s proposed alternative involves a plastic grid laid on a shallow base and filled with a gravel mix. So far, it has satisfied the requirements of both LBH Parks tree officers, for tree root protection, and of LBH Streetscene engineers for a practicable method for council contractors.

Funding is from Transport for London’s annual sustainable transport allocation to Hackney, so it’s not using any of the park’s own project funds. We explained LBH’s reasons for wanting to get on with the project in our April posting, and although it’s not MUG’s highest priority, it seemed sensible to take the opportunity.

Harry puts MUG’s ideas to a site meeting ┬áinvolving Streetscene,
parks tree officers, and our park development officer

By engaging with the council on this, the committee has also been able to negotiate a council commitment to redesigning the walking/cycling shared use arrangement on the Black Path, something that MUG called for in 2008 but which was shelved during the master plan consultations. If it came to a choice, the group might prefer to spend TfL’s money on that, but it seems that both projects can be afforded from this year’s money.

An orchard path?

LBH recently approached us to take up the idea of a path through the orchard area, which would join the Black Path to the towpath walk down to Cow Bridge.

You can see the proposal in more detail as a 1.2 Mb pdf.

The group last discussed this idea as project 8 of the Master Plan ’30 Projects’, and liked it as long as the design fitted the character of this part of the park. It’s clear from the wear patterns that there is a desire line through this space (i.e. lots of people go that way). It forms part of a pleasant circular stroll via the filter beds, and seems to be one of the few routes that is more to do with enjoying the park than going through it to somewhere else.

LBH is taking this up now because they would like to transfer the Cow Bridge towpath to the park, so they want to get the orchard link done and dusted at the same time. Currently the towpath is managed by Streetscene, as the Traffic and Transportation section is known, and they are trying to get it off their hands. The funding comes from LBH’s 2011/12 sustainable transport allocation from TfL.

The towpath was originally given as compensation for the land lost to the M11 link road. Since then LBH has neglected it both physically and legally, with the result that they’re not even sure that they own it: some of the land is registered to the London Development Agency and Transport for London. As a final stroke, the path was closed for a long time as a result of works in the council waste depot.

In 2010 MUG pressured the council into reopening the path. It was promptly closed again on safety pretexts, so we got it opened again. Since then park users have been able to enjoy it. A benefit of its neglect has been the number of small birds which took to living in the tangle of scrub – a de facto wildlife corridor.

The wildlife suffered a severe setback this January when LBH contractors took a flail to the vegetation, leaving the path looking like a section of the Western front. MUG took this up and, to be fair, received a prompt, full and frank apology. And it was at least done before the bird nesting season had begun. The reason for this carnage was that LBH was clearing access to the streetlights along the path, which it proposes (with MUG’s agreement) to remove. The reasoning is that we obviously don’t want lighting in the orchard, and it is unwise to lead people into a lit path by Cow Bridge and then leave them in an unlit park. They have asked MUG about the lights and the committee agrees with their removal.

So, we come to the orchard proposal, which is part of LBH’s project ‘to bring the canalside path into a state of good repair and create a new path linking it to the Black Path’. LBH Streetscene had discussed the path with LBH Parks before bringing it to MUG, and their route drawing takes account of the need to avoid the root protection zones of established trees. LBH are asking MUG our opinion of both the route and the materials.

The committee feels the route, first, ought to link to the steps to the filter beds bridge. Second, it would be better to route it more along the eastern edge of the space, if possible. Whether the latter is possible depends on whether there is a way to run the path closer to trees. Committee member Harry Hewat, who has relevant expertise, has drawn an alternative route and is investigating path construction techniques and surfaces that might make it feasible. Harry’s drawing shows the council proposal as a double dotted line and a possible alternative as a single brown line.

The LBH design is also too wide. This arises from the fact that in theory the Cow Bridge towpath includes a cycle route and the work is funded by TfL sustainable transport funds. In fact there is no particular need for a designated cycle route on the towpath, since it doesn’t lead anywhere other than on a pleasant potter over to the marshes, or down through Daubeny Fields. Considerate informal shared use can continue. We have told the LBH engineer that the theoretical presence of a cycle route, and the funding conditions, must not be allowed to land the park with an inappropriately wide or hard-surfaced path, and LBH seems to understand this.

The surface should be as close to a natural earth surface as possible. The usual material for this is hoggin, which is basically clay. There is a hoggin path for example on Daubeny Fields, running north-south along the east side.