THE WOOD and grassed slopes of Springfield Park rising gently from the north bank of the River Lea in Stamford Hill are one of the little delights of Hackney. Now a free booklet has come out to celebrate the attractions of its 16 hectares (40 acres), especially its trees.
In the centre of the guide is an easy-to-read map marking all the facilities of the magnificent park. The special feature is that the location of every one of the park’s 87 tree species trees is indicated by a number, corresponding with notes in well-designed text that give the name/genus, a short note on whether or not the tree is native to Britain and a sketch of the tree.
The booklet can be guide to a relaxing day for residents of and visitors to north Hackney. Ahmet Yener, who runs the café in the White Lodge, the Georgian cottage on the hill, produced the 12-page booklet at his own expense. He can hardly wait to see people wandering by, map in hand, to identify the species. While being interviewed in the café he joyfully pointed out a customer who had picked up a copy and was showing it to his family.
Yener told Loving Dalston: “I’ve always been into nature. You can’t run a business in a park like this, with all the beauty around, and not be.”
There is a lot to enjoy. Apart from children’s and sports sections, the park, which was given to the public about a century ago, includes trees such as “Californian” redwoods (they originated in China), black walnut, yew (which can live 2,000 years), endangered horse chestnut (from the Balkans), flowering cherries (so beautiful they warrant a festival in Japan) and swamp conifer.
The booklet has a precedent. In 2005 5,000 copies of an eight-page guide were given away. “This time,” Yener told Loving Dalston, “we decided to do 12 pages because so many new species have been planted.” (He uses “we” in the sense of “we at the café” and when he talks about the booklet he is also referring to Springfield Park User Group, experts at Hackney council and the volunteer group the Tree Musketeers.)
“We care about the park and the people who use it,” he said. “Taking a booklet into the park would make a fantastic day out for children, to teach which tree is what and to use a map.”
Yener took over the café in 2003. The White Lodge, he recalled was “a derelict building” with park drinkers outside. It was broken into 11 times in the space of six months but eventually, “with the help of the local community”, he made a success of the venue. Even in winter it is popular with young mothers for its South American blend of coffee and its cakes. Warm weather of course brings more visitors.
The next project is to replace the name/genus labels that are on trees with new labels. The 87 new tags will be placed on trees located as marked on the map.
David Altheer 050512
* Sparks (Springfield Park café — get it?), Springfield (street), off Upper Clapton Road, Clapton E5 9EF. Public area is on ground floor, allowing disabled access. Council-provided unisex (duosex?) toilet is at right of entrance hall.
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