Langtons Gardens doesn’t have Havering Park’s magnificent redwood trees, or the broad acres of Hornchurch Country Park. Nor does it have a deer park with vistas across Havering that are so good they could be prescribed by your GP. Right in the centre of Hornchurch the gardens are the beating heart of the urban area.
Covid-19 has taught us about the critical importance of parks. Havering is blessed.Langtons Gardens are part of Havering’s historical legacy, which is very easy to take for granted.1 The magnificent gardens are maintained at a very high level, which is essential because they are under constant pressure by thousands of visitors. The garden’s constant improvement has seen a cafe opened and public toilets.
Langtons has a wonderful Georgian house and Orangery. These are picture perfect for wedding photos. The gardens include lawns, flowerbeds and a large lake. The pathways are smooth and readily accessible by everyone. There are numerous benches. After Fielders Field was opened there are more extensive walks. In the summer Fielders Field is used for cricket. Young children use the woodland adventure playground.
Langtons Gardens are a delight and a credit to Havering Council.
Dagnam Park has hundreds of deer who are destroying the natural habitat.1 The deer are so numerous that they are a visible threat to the environment amongst other challenges. The ecology of Dagnam Park is in constant flux. There are three ‘invaders’ which are now part of the beauty of the park. Purists hate invaders and sometimes they really are hateful.
Originally from Asia, the harlequin ladybird first arrived in the UK in 2004, and has rapidly become one of the most common ladybirds in the country, particularly in towns and gardens. It is one of our larger species and is a voracious predator – it is able to out-compete our native species for aphid-prey and will also eat other ladybirds’ eggs and larvae. It can have multiple broods throughout the spring, summer and autumn, which also gives it a competitive edge.2
…just because it’s blue, bell-shaped and blooming in a wood in early spring it doesn’t mean it’s our native bluebell……a common favourite in gardens across the land – have been escaping into the wild for over 100 years. In fact, one in six broadleaved woodlands surveyed by Plantlife across the UK were found to contain a Spanish Bluebell or a hybrid between the two.3
Yellow Necked Terrapin
Habitat: Prefers still or slow-flowing water. Commonly found in urban parks…They are opportunistic omnivores and predate on invertebrates, fish and amphibians. They often use the banks of water bodies to bask, which can disturb the nests of waterfowl such as Moorhens and thus interfere with breeding.4
Dagnam Park, like parks across the whole world, is constantly evolving. Foreign invaders are easily identified, though they might not be easily dealt with. Other changes are driven by invisible factors. They include the climate emergency, pollution, mankind – housing, leisure, agriculture – and seasonal variations all alter the habitat. Foreign invaders are however especially important as the people of Florida have found out with their python problem.5
“The medieval marshes of Rainham, Wennington and Aveley are one of the very few ancient landscapes remaining in London.”*
Rainham Riverside is an idiosyncratic gem. If you’re hoping for chocolate box beauty you’ll be disappointed. Approaching the car park you pass through an industrial area. Once beyond that there’s a narrow road with lush vegetation on either side. The last half mile or so prepares you for the small car park and the Thames in front of you. You’ve entered a different world.
Once on the riverside footpath, which is a good, sound surface, you can choose to go east or west. We took the eastwards route towards the RSPB site. Immediately you notice the sweep of the river. It isn’t glorious, it’s a working river. There are hulks from WW2 left in the mud. Their glory days supporting the Allied invasion on D-Day long gone. Numerous hand painted signs and information boards are scattered on fencing adjacent to the path.
One reason we didn’t get to the RSPB was that it was shut. The other reason was it was too far. Younger people could easily walk it. We needed more benches. Not very ambitious is it? A walk based on the distance between benches, but there you are. We did about a mile each way and found it to be most satisfactory.
It’s very popular with cyclists, many of whom have bells, unlike the ones who populate Hornchurch pavements. Small groups of walkers and families enjoyed the day as well. Recommended especially for the wonderful fresh air.
Havering Park still has the second largest plantation of Wellingtonia in England, totalling 100 trees
Havering Park is quite small and undistinguished. It doesn’t have a cafe or a deer park and it definitely doesn’t have stunning views across London. What it does have is a unique avenue of trees: Wellingtonia Avenue.
The Giant Redwood lines Wellingtonia Avenue but because of rapid local changes they go from nowhere to nowhere. They were planted about 140 years ago by the McIntosh family who owned the local mansion. Nowadays they’d be regarded as a foreign invader species but the attraction in the 19th century was that,
Redwoods grow faster than almost any other tree in the world, obtaining 3 to 10 feet of growth per year. Most of this growth occurs in the first century of a redwood’s life.** (my emphasis)
The great 18th century gardens took decades to put together before reaching maturity. The McIntosh family didn’t want to wait. They selected the Giant Redwood. The Giant Redwood lives for 3000 years becoming a monster, which means, barring climate change, they could live until about 5020! Havering Park is blessed with a landscape dominated by wonderful trees.
A short walk on a decent surface means that Havering Park provides a unique experience and is worth a visit.
During the 18th century, wealthy farmers enclosed common land. Poor people had had a traditional right to graze animals and get informal food supplies but they didn’t have documentary evidence of that right. Parliamentary ‘Enclosure’ Acts favoured the wealthy, who used a legal sleight of hand to dispossess them. By about 1850, enclosure was completed with just a few commons remaining. One of these was Tylers Common. The rights of the commoners were defended by the ‘lord of the manor’, the Branfil family.
The Battle for Tylers Common
During the Second World War all available land was utilised. Tylers Common was used for food production by Essex Council from 1943. Unlike the 18th century, 20th century commoners had documentary evidence supporting historic rights. No-one anticipated a land grab by Essex Council.
Geoffrey Bing was the local MP and a very senior lawyer. When commoners approached him about the enclosure of Tylers Common he was outraged. He was a formidable opponent of Essex Council and his forensic probing discovered,
…..Essex County Council have…… illegally enclosed this common and let it to one of their members.** (my emphasis)
In the subsequent court case, Essex Council’s refusal to reinstate pre-war common status led to a damning judgment. Councillors were surcharged for wilful behaviour and had to pay costs. Bing, as a lawyer and parliamentarian, trounced Essex Council and Tylers Common remains common land enjoyed by the people of Havering to this day.
* KC: this is the most senior rank for barristers – nowadays QC
North Havering has herds of deer. They’re picturesque and delightful to look at but as they’re living in an environment without natural predators, they breed rapidly. Bambi is apparently harmless but in actual fact is a health hazard and causes road accidents.
Bambi is lovable but not in an urban environment.* Deer are wild animals who shouldn’t interact with humans. They have ticks living on them. This sounds harmless but it’s recently been established that ‘Tick Borne Encephalitis’ has arrived in Britain. Encephalitis usually makes healthy people feel mildly unwell but occasionally it’s lethal for the vulnerable elderly and very young. Havering’s deer haven’t had injections and as they migrate into urban areas they bring ticks with them, with the possibility of disease.
Parks in north Havering look like battle zones as they’re systematically destroyed by deer. Natural habitats are stripped bare.
The enclosure is deer proof but everywhere else is unprotected from the deer’s appetite. Deer destroy everything in their path. Bluebells ought to be growing in profusion but it’s a wasteland. Trees are killed when their bark is ripped off.
Deer roam into the Harold Hill estate. Obviously they don’t worry about the Highway Code. So far there haven’t been any fatalities but there has been extensive damage to many vehicles.
Havering’s deer need to be culled before they cause serious road accidents or spread disease. This is a political decision, which councillor Osman Dervish should address urgently.