Bedford Park, Havering atte Bower
Location: Lower Bedfords Road, Havering atte Bower, Romford, Essex
Client: Essex Wildlife Trust
Architect: Laurie Wood
Status: Completed 2003
Nestling between Havering-The park consists of various habitats on a south-facing slope overlooking the Thames basin, with far reaching views from the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, panning across Canary Wharf and the Dome right up to the centre of London, with the north downs of Kent in between. atte-Bower and Harold Hill, the park was once a private estate with an impressive manor house but is now home to an Essex Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre. Although it is not a nature reserve, the flora and fauna here have a surprising diversity and abundance, and Bedfords could give many a reserve a good run for its money!
Areas of woodland, scrub, meadows, ponds and a lake ensure a broad range of interest for birds, mammals and invertebrates alike, as well as the human visitors that come here to walk and relax.
Bedfords Park has a long history this area was first mentioned back in 1212 when King John took the land from John Derewin as forfeiture and gave it to William D’Aubigny for the annual rent of one Sparrowhawk! Over the next few centuries, the land passed between various owners and became part of the Gidea Hall Estate, belonging to Sir Thomas Cooke, Lord Mayor of London. In the late 1700s, John Heaton bought Bedfords and built the manor house, and it was from then on that the park developed its current character, especially during the period when Charles Barber planted many specimen trees. Many of these still stand and include Monkey Puzzle, Wellingtonia and Cedar of Lebanon.
In 1932 the Park was sold to Romford Council (now the London Borough of Havering), and it was opened as a public park in 1934. A captive herd of Red Deer were then introduced, harking back to the days of the Royal Hunting Grounds. The manor house was used as a museum, but it, unfortunately, became derelict during the war and was demolished in 1959. A café was built on the site and the Park was very popular throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, the café closed and Bedfords suffered a decline until Essex Wildlife Trust entered a partnership with Havering Council, and the Visitor Centre was opened in 2003. Today the park is back to its former glory, well used by families, with a full range of events and activities.
A seating area and gazebo were built using reclaimed materials into a bank of rubble which lead up a pathway set between log walls re-purposed from the timber felled during the clearance of the site to create a car park. Planting was carried out around the visitor centre using plants donated by Mathew Wilson of RHS Hyde Hall, and Fords Europe along with those donated by the public. A seating area and gazebo