Visitors to the Ingrebourne Hill Country Park1 don’t realise that it was once an environmental disaster zone. There were major fly-tipping problems, rat infestation, motor-cycle nuisance and horses were tethered and left over the winter months, many of whom starved to death. In the long hot summer of 1976 major fires happened frequently because of the rotting waste producing methane gas. On at least two occasions the flames rose above the height of the houses.
Airfield ward councillors Ray Emmett (1982-2002) and Chris Purnell (1990-2002) led a campaign for a positive environmental solution, with the Labour Administration. There was a wonderful proposition, which resulted in the country park. Nothing less likely could have been imagined. Derelict land ravaged by decades of abuse was given an enormous facelift to the benefit of the entire community.
But there was a cost. The land was used as a dumping site for inert waste from all over London with hundreds of lorry movements each month. Simultaneously there was gravel winning which also meant a great deal of industrial activity. Ingrebourne Hill was engineered using that inert waste and then capped and sculpted into what it is now. The lake which is adjacent was the result of the gravel winning. Years of disruption for the Park’s neighbours have been richly rewarded.
The Ingrebourne Hill Country Park has mountain bike tracks, a short and challenging climb to the top and also, less energetically, gentle walks through to Albyns Farm. A further cost was the political careers of the Labour councillors who promoted that vision, which took just too long for the voters to see through to fruition.