Sunday, 9 December 2018


Article by Pippa Moss.
On Saturday 1st December we were faced with a very soggy morning for our tree dressing event and while we couldn’t quite face putting the gazebo up in the rain we didn’t want to cancel.
We would have had to have the storyteller Rich Sylvester in the bowling green huts but the weather actually got a bit better and we found a really sheltered spot near the bowling green with great tree coverage so we just based ourselves right there on the path and Rich made a dry den in the trees. 
Dry den for story telling. Photo Pippa
He did a few story sessions with some groups of all weather families and people did stop to write lovely messages on our fabric strips. Many were inspired by a great tree poem Alona had found with phrases such as ‘stress reliever, shelter for owls etc’. 
Poem found on Internet. Poet unnamed
We ended up dressing the yew tree behind us but also people walked down to the orchard to tie some up there too.
Of course it wasn’t as busy as usual in the park but it felt like we were saying thank you to the trees and that felt right to me - I get a lot from Mayow Park’s trees - there’s many a morning when I return from a rushed school run and look at the trees and just give a big sigh of ‘thanks for being here and looking lovely’. But they look a little less lovely in the winter so dressing them is a good idea!
Some decorative messages. Photo Alona

Tree message. Photo Pippa
Around midday, a talented local dog walker called Dave came along with his guitar and after a few cups of mulled wine it felt very normal to be having a fun sing-along next to the Bowling Green with confused runners trying to dodge through us!
Mulled wine time. Photo Pippa
Dave led a great sing-along on the theme of trees, accompanied by his guitar. He also included Christmas songs   Jingle Bells and White Christmas
                                                                         Photo: Alona

                                                                          Photo: Alona

Singing rounded off our tree dressing event     Photo: Sarah
Alona and I also gave an interview to Emma from CPRE who is filming and interviewing Friends groups. She said it was so nice to chat to people who were so smiley as they talked about their Friends group. I can’t think why on a wet Saturday in a park with a mulled wine inside me and poetic trees words buzzing in my head I wouldn’t be smiling??

Thursday, 6 December 2018


This article, by Pippa,  first appeared in Sydenham Society News, Winter 2018.

Mayow Park’s annual Apple Day on Saturday 6 October started fabulously – grey Autumnal weather, but visitors and passers-by soon arrived when they saw tasty apple slices being proffered to try.
We set up in the orchard (opposite the tennis courts) looking very festive and apple-themed. Sadly, we couldn’t offer any apples actually grown in the orchard – I wonder where they went? Hopefully into a nice crumble somewhere. However, there were plenty of different varieties to try (challenge: five are hidden in the wordsearch below), all available at your local greengrocer or supermarket!
As always in Mayow Park, a great feeling of community spirit and support surrounded the stall. Around 60 people stopped to say hi or join an activity. Rich Sylvester, the excellent storyteller who has joined us before, created a circus feel with his parachute tent tied up in a big tree, with lots of children sitting on rugs listening attentively. Rich used puppets and props to bring his stories to life, and the children added sound effects with sticks and singing.
At the stall, some children coloured in apples and took part in the apple and pear hunt around the orchard for a prize treat. Meanwhile, the grown-ups seemed delighted at the offer of a (free) warming cup of tea. Then it all got a bit soggy. Then really very wet, and it was time to abort. Like so many family camping trips it was a matter of trying to get everything quickly away into the dry. What hero volunteers we had, smiling through the lashing rain, not at all resentful about all those lovely blue sky days in the previous weeks. Great spirit and very British. And we do grow good apples (maybe because of the rain?).
Mayow Park’s next event is Tree Dressing on Saturday 1 December during National Tree Week. Based on an ancient custom that celebrates the life-giving properties of trees, we hope you will join us to decorate some of the wonderful trees in our park. For details of this event visit Friends of Mayow Park on Facebook or email
Can you find the names of some apple varieties in this word search? Look for these:
Gala, Robjin, Russet, Cox, Braeburn
Our volunteers with apple varieties to taste

Our storyteller with audience

Friday, 26 October 2018

Preparing the orchard for winter

We received a pile of wood chips thanks to Glendale Lewisham (the contractors who manage most of Lewisham's parks on behalf of the council) and this motivated us to get to work in the orchard, preparing the fruit trees for winter.

Our plan was: remove grass around the trees to a radius of 1 metre from the base of each tree, chop up comfrey leaves at the base of the trees, then a thick layer of wood chips 10cm deep (or 4" in old measures).

With our team of volunteers and good weather, the work was completed very quickly and the trees now have a thick blanket around them ready for winter.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018


We had a very successful Apple Day last year (2017). All our orchard fruits had been 'taken' weeks before so we had none of our own to offer the community to taste. Instead we bought in some heritage apple varieties from Brogdale in Kent and some from local greengrocers. The most popular proved to be a variety bought in Lidl and called 'Zinga'.
This coming Saturday, people will be encouraged to walk round our orchard trees, to learn about the varieties we are growing and perhaps to feel motivated to volunteer to care for our orchard at our workdays.
Our story teller last year, Rich Sylvester, proved to be a great hit with young children and their parents and will be back on Saturday.
We could do with more volunteers to help on the day with refreshments. See you on Saturday.

Saturday, 22 September 2018


What a summer it has been. After a particularly cold winter, followed by   an exceptionally wet spring, who would have thought that this past summer in southern England would be so very hot, humid and without rain?
This took its toll on plants, including trees. The Mayow Park orchard trees were showing signs of stress. The oldest trees were planted early in 2012 and the others were planted in early 2016. A plea was sent out asking for orchard carers to water selected trees and six people came forward, three of whom were helping out for the first time.
The need to provide 20 litres to each tree once a week, rather than frequent small amounts, was explained and understood. Small amounts of water dampen the very top of the soil but 20 litres should soak down and reach the roots.
There was one difficulty; no easily accessible water supply. Over the past few years our orchard carers have found ingenious ways to bring quantities of water to the trees including bringing a large water container in a child’s buggy and carrying 4 lots of 5 litre spring water bottles  filled with tap water in a shopper’s trolley bag on wheels.
One orchard carer put pen to paper to reflect on the task they had agreed to take on.

Well, my young son comes home from school every day with messages about the environment...all the things we shouldn't be doing, using plastic, driving the car etc etc. While I appreciate the eco drive in school it was getting me down a little...all this negative talk. So when I saw a post asking for help with the young trees in the park I thought this might be a lovely thing to do together that was actually going to have a positive impact on our local environment.

I have to say I was a little overwhelmed at first with the logistics of getting 20 litres to our designated tree every week but I realised a little hodgepodging with a bike trailer and tub trug and smaller jugs it could be done relatively easily. We did get some slightly odd looks filling up at the cafe toilets but my chatty son was quick to explain what we were up to, to anyone who paused long enough to let him. The dog also liked to join in...I'm sure the tree won't miss the few laps of water he stole too much. As the summer went on my son's enthusiasm did wane a little, so we introduced ice lollies post watering as a reward. We enjoyed them beside our tree hoping that he was also feeling refreshed and cooler after our efforts.

Thank you to that family for all their efforts. The good news is that the younger trees, with that bit of extra TLC, avoided serious dehydration. The older trees (planted in 2012) without individual carers had a much harder time. They had more fruit drop than usual during June and many of the remaining fruits showed peck marks from winged birds (possibly the parakeets) who were suffering from lack of food.

Unfortunately the remaining UNRIPE fruits on all the fruit trees were  picked off one day in July by person or persons unknown, with no fruits remaining, not even windfalls. We had hoped to share some apples with park users at our Apple Day on 6th October and to compare the different tastes. Our default option is to buy a number of commercial varieties for tasting instead.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Tree bracket

In June this year a young(ish) red horse chestnut in Mayow Park was observed and identified as  dead with only a  few dried leaves remaining, no leaf buds and brittle branches, perhaps due to the challenging weather last winter (extra cold), spring (extra damp) and summer (extra dry). Lewisham's tree officer arranged for tree surgeons to remove all branches. The tree was able to remain as a monolith, standing proudly, providing habitats for fungi and invertebrates.

monolith red horse chestnut: photo A Sheridan
By the end of August a magnificent Dryad's Saddle bracket fungus (Polyporus squamosus) had taken up residence roughly 2 metres above the ground.

Underside Dryad's Saddle (photo A Sheridan)

Dryad's Saddle view from above  (photo A Sheridan)
This fungus is supposed to smell strongly of water melon but it was too high up to find out. It does not have gills but has pores instead. Its chosen habitat is deciduous trees and stumps. It is a fine looking fungus.

Monday, 6 August 2018

plum pruning and pocket plum

Not many people are aware of the small fruit bed which is tended by volunteers from Friends of Mayow Park not far from the cafe and near the water fountain. Look and you will find a Victoria Plum tree and a Jonagold apple.
Last year some of the fruits on the plum showed signs of Pocket Plum.  This year it suffered more.
According to the RHS:
Pocket plum is a fungal infection of the young fruits of plums, damsons and some ornamental species, causing them to develop abnormally, without stones.
This is caused by a fungus Taphrina pruni The fruits often develop a bent banana shape. There is no current chemical-free treatment. To control the disease all fruits and infected branches need to be removed before spored develop.
Unfortunately, though some fruits were removed early in the season, we did not pay enough attention to this tree.

Two volunteers arrived at 9am this morning 6th August, to give some positive attention to the plum tree. The sun was already blazing down and we wanted to finish before the day became too hot.
We pruned branches which had diseased fruit, removing all prunings from the site. We also removed a branch growing at ground level below the graft union, which was clearly not the same tree variety.
All tools were disinfected.
Next year we need to be very vigilant early in the season.

tractor mows meadow

The annual hay-making meadow-cutting in Mayow Park took place this morning 6th August 2018, discreetly and without fanfare around 9.30am. A lovely sight on a hot morning. You could imagine you are out of town in a rural setting.
How many people noticed?

Monday, 9 July 2018

Splendid day for a lark in the park part 2

The Lark in the Park event on 30th June this year celebrated 140 years since Mayow Park was opened to the public, in 1878. Some people dressed up and some stalls included a Victorian theme though this was not obligatory.
Numerous community groups were respresented with stalls and there was plenty to do at the event.
Voluntary Services Lewisham,  Forest Hill Society and Friends of Mayow Park were there.
Food for the masses was provided by Min Albi (meaning Food from the Heart'), helping Syrian refugees in South London to use their cooking skills to gain work experience and entrepreneurial independence.
Opposite their food stall was the Women's Institute gazebo with some of their delicious cakes available to buy.
Forest Hill Society hosted the Lewisham Swifts group, raising awareness that swift numbers are in decline and how we can help these amazing birds.

Forest Hill Society and Lewisham Swifts
The local Perry Vale Safer Neighbourhood Team was on hand to offer advice.
Dr Bike gave tips and help on caring for your bike.
Dr Bike and local Police. photo S Hatchard
  Free tennis was on offer at the tennis courts. Young children were catered for  with a bouncy castle and soft play area.
Bouncy castle fun - photo S Hatchard
Sydenham Arts provided musical activities in the bowls green.
Brown and Green cafe was open for business as usual.
Usborne Books had a stall which included Victorian toys.
Mayows Mutts, a local group of dogs with their owners, had a dog parade with raffle prizes.

The Friends of Mayow Park stall had a few Victorian activities aimed at children. Children could play quoits, practice skipping with skipping ropes and learn to play hopscotch using chalked markings on the tarmac path.

If that was not enough, they could make Victorian-style brooches.
They could also make thaumatropes. We called them 'spinners' for simplicity.

More on thaumatropes  can be found on this website: 
Every child that took part in an activity received a paper bag printed with pictures of Victorian objects and containing loose sweets;  no plastic bags or plastic-wrapped sweets 140 years ago. 
Paper bag for sweets
     Children also received an additional gift of a small Victorian-style slate board and pencil.
Research for these Victorian related activities was carried out by Pippa, one of the active members of Friends of Mayow Park.
The whole event seemed to go very well. Thank you to Perry Vale ward for organising this enjoyable community event.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Splendid day for a lark in the park Part 1

What a splendid day it was for a lark in the park in Mayow Park on Saturday 30th June 2018.
The event was organised by Lewisham Council's Perry Vale ward as a community event and community stalls were there in numbers. The event joined forces with Sydenham Arts who held their activities in the bowls green so the park was buzzing.  So many people smiling in the sunshine.

Community groups came to set up at 11am and public events  began at midday.
A Victorian theme ran through for some of the stalls in recognition of the 140th anniversary since the opening of Mayow Park to the public in June 1878.
For the Friends of Mayow Park it was also an excuse for a double celebration. The group (formerly known as Mayow Park Users' Group) held their very first official meeting in April 1993 and have been going for 25 years.

In recognition of this double anniversary, Friends of Mayow Park (FOMP) set up their stall to face the Victorian water fountain.  The monument commemorates the Rev William Taylor Jones who kick-started the process that was to lead to the creation of Sydenham Public Recreation Ground, later renamed  Mayow Park. While the fountain no longer works, it stands as a proud memorial to the origins of the park.

Putting up the bunting (photo S Hatchard)
Victorian fountain with bunting (photo S Hatchard)
    Our gazebo was installed in a jiffy and soon  all were busy preparing the table, signs and activities.
Getting stall ready (photo A Sheridan)
Gazebo up (photo A Sheridan)

Children's Victorian art and craft activities were part of the FOMP offer and two young people took on much of the work to reach out to members of the public.
Victorian brooch making activity (photo P Moss)
brooch-making preparations (photo P Moss)

Sue and Sandra prepare the thaumatrope activity (photo P Moss)
The FOMP stall displayed a number of items that might be of interest to visitors:
- an article from the Sydenham Society Summer 2018 newsletter, written by Steve Grindlay and explaining the creation of Mayow Park.

- Walk on the Wild Side map of the park showing just a few of the significant trees

    And a scrap book that FOMP volunteers are putting together called 'Mayow Park Memories'.   The front cover is a copy of an original painting by local artist Darren Russell Hayman.                                                                                                               
More about this event to follow.

Thursday, 28 June 2018


Mayow Park is located in Perry Vale ward in the London Borough of Lewisham. The annual Lark in the Park community event will take place this year on Saturday 30th June. Free entry. All welcome.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018


A warm, pleasant evening and over 40 people came on our tree walk round the park on Friday 22nd June at 7pm. We walked round seeking some of the less well-known trees as well as recognising the old, familiar characters. Parkland ornamentals as well as veterans make the trees of Mayow Park so special.
So that children would have a focus  (there were about 8 children there) a sheet with 12 tree names was handed to them. They had to find the trees as we walked round, give the trees a hug or try a bark rubbing, and remember the names of the trees they found. For each tree they received a nature stamp on their sheet.
We came to the black walnut tree Juglans nigra, planted in 1994 by the Friends of Mayow Park (known at that time as Mayow Park Users' group). A non-native tree, it can grow to over 30 metres high. It needs plenty of light and prefers a fertile soil.
Black walnut
Black poplar
Further along the meadow is the black poplar Populas nigra, donated and planted in 2012 by Glendale (the park contractors) to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the Throne. Black poplars can live up to 200 years and this is a native tree. There are other poplars in the park whose age we can only guess at and there was some debate about whether they had been planted before Mayow Park was created.
Majestic Cedar of Lebanon
The majestic evergreen Cedar of Lebanon, originating from Lebanon and the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, stands proudly looking down hill from its vantage point near the De Frene Road entrance.
We found Monkey Puzzle trees and lovely limes, a golden weeping willow and strong hornbeams.

A holm oak which has been a popular climbing tree through the generations. People now in their 40s and 50s bring their own children back to the park to share memories of this tree.
Horse chestnut is still a popular tree in autumn when children gather its conkers. How many can you find in the park?
Plenty of maples were planted in the park in the past, along the path edges.  Some have thrown up suckers and look more like maple bushes than trees. One has formed a den much loved by young children.
Maple den

We must not forget the wonderful veteran English oaks, Quercus robur, many of which were pollarded in bygone days. These are all older than the park and may have once been part of field boundary hedgerows. They are affectionately known as the boundary oaks.  This park has more than 20 such trees. Very old trees like these are valuable for wildlife. They contain dead wood particularly good for many beetles whose larvae feed on dead wood.  Holes also make good homes for nesting birds and small mammals.

One of the wonderful pollarded oaks
A copper beech, a blue cedar, a tulip tree and a tall Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostrboides, are some of the other specials in the park. To appreciate the dawn redwood in all its glory it is worth getting close up, to see the bark and the leaves. This is a deciduous conifer, shedding its leaves every autumn.
Dawn Redwood 

Friday, 15 June 2018


It was great to see Friends of Mayow Park (FOMP) volunteers and Glendale staff working together on 12th June 2018 on a joint grounds maintenance project to improve part of the park. This work was not part of the usual maintenance routine but had been identified as work we could do together in  celebration of Mayow Park’s  140th anniversary as a public park and Friends of Mayow Park’s quarter century as a park user group. On 1st June1878 the Sydenham and Forest Hill Public Recreation Ground (later renamed as Mayow Park) was formally opened. Friends of Mayow Park (previously called Mayow Park Users’ Group) held their first meeting in April 1993.
The aims of the joint Glendale and FOMP session were agreed:
  • To clean up the Victorian drinking fountain
  • To resurrect the rockery near the modern drinking fountain
  • To tidy up and make more accessible the fruit and herb beds in the Triangle
  • To thin out the maple suckers which form a lovely den around an old maple tree stump
  • To prune the privet hedge and fruiting hedgerow where the aviary used to be, if time allowed
The Victorian drinking fountain stands as a memorial to the Rev William Taylor Jones and a symbol of Victorian philanthropy. It remains an attractive ornament although the water supply through lead piping was blocked way back in a bygone age. If you look carefully you will see the filled-in holes from which water flowed. Hilary Jarrett, who was Chair of the Friends of Mayow Park in the early this millennium, looked into the possibility of restoring the fountain. However, expert advice warned that such a project would be immensely expensive and risk causing serious damage to the granite fountain. It was far better to keep the fountain as it is for it to remain an acknowledgment of the past.
Victorian fountain  in Mayow Park

The fountain called for a clean-up to celebrate its position in the park and that call was answered by Ian, with a bucket and long- handled brush.  
Ian arrives to spruce it up as a birthday treat

Job done. Fountain cleaned

We now have the modern drinking fountain, beside the rockery,  paid for by a grant to FOMP and installed by Glendale a few years ago, thanks to Hilary’s persistence in seeking funds.


Behind the modern drinking fountain stands a rockery. Every spring flowering bulbs grow in the rockery before the forest of elder, ivy, bindweed, overgrown holly and other plants take over. The rockery was revealed today when the team cut through the dense undergrowth. 
Where is the rockery?
Rockery uncovered and cleared of rubbish

Suitable rockery plants for shade were planted. These were sourced by Glendale, purchased by the Friends and planted by Glendale’s grounds maintenance staff and also acknowledge times past.
Rockery planted

. . . and more plants

Nearby, close to the modern drinking water fountain, the Friends tend fruit and herb beds. Today the fruit bed saw five volunteers hard at work. One started pruning the fruiting hedgerow on two sides of the bed. The others cut back the grass growing round the redcurrant bushes, the raspberry canes and the fruit trees, releasing these plants from hiding. The grass in the central space was also cut so that people can now bring their picnic mats and enjoy a less overlooked space. No photos of this at the moment.

Directly opposite the fruit bed is a bench and a maple tree stump surrounded by maple stems which have suckered up to surround the stump and create a ‘den’ for children and adults to explore. The stump itself is a haven for invertebrates and possibly even elusive stag beetle larvae hiding deep in the dense wood. The suckered growth was overgrown and needed thinning, brambles growing through it and covering the ground.  
Den looking in - before clearing
Den from outside before clearing

So a team armed with loppers, saws and secateurs worked to thin back the maple growth and cut through the brambles. The work also revealed the variegated holly behind the maple stems.  Children and adults can now enter the den without scratching themselves on thorns.
Maple den after clearing

The site near the tennis courts, where the aviary used to be, is referred to as ‘the hard standing’. It has a privet hedge and a fruiting hedgerow. Glendale staff trimmed the privet which had become overgrown and straggly. The fruiting hedgerow was carefully pruned to leave the flowering wild roses which add colour  to the space and encourage insects.
Work in progress
Smile for the camera
Hedge trimmed

Hedgerow pruned

Roses in the hedgerow
Thank you to the FOMP volunteers and  Glendale staff for a productive session and great team work. Our efforts were a fitting celebration of Mayow140 and FOMP 25.
Below are some photos of Glendale staff at work. Someone forgot to take photos of the  FOMP volunteers, but we were there - honest!