In October 2020 the final decision was made by Lewisham officers and the London Cricket Trust to locate new cricket nets at the western end of Mayow Park, very close to the wonderful and much loved Holm Oak (Quercus ilex for those that appreciate its Latin name).
|New nets location overlaid on old nets site|
|Remains of old cricket nets area|
Change for the better?
Such brand new training nets will be a joy to cricket fans, seeing not the changed historical landscape but the state-of-the-art sports facility (with five years’ funded maintenance courtesy of the London Cricket Trust).
Park users have been assured that local schools are keen to have their pupils use the all-weather, all-season net facility and that the majority of net users will be from the local community, in walking distance (hopefully, since the park entrance closest to the nets is in a very residential area with limited parking). Locals may also get to see nationally recognised clubs joining in on the fun.
In the long term, removing a section of grassy field from Sunday afternoon family picnics and community leisure was deemed worth it with the aim of having healthier and more active local young people (and women too) who it is hoped will now have the means to develop a great love for this quintessentially English game. Mayow Park is one of 50 new and planned locations across London, where the London Cricket Trust is bringing cricket facilities to the people, in collaboration with local councils*.
But a singular view on cricket may miss other important factors that one hopes decision makers also took into account: namely, the social, environmental and visual impacts of the changes (not to mention the long-term costs of upkeep to the nets). To what extent were these factors considered by the London Cricket Trust and Lewisham Council when choosing the location and plans for the nets - and do the benefits outweigh the costs?
Someone on one of the local FB groups posted a very succinct summary of their thoughts on 3rd July 2021, which highlight the social impact of the new nets in a park that already has so much to offer:
“ I think lockdown has shown how much people value the space, to spend time in nature, for their wellbeing, meet friends and family safely, walk their dogs etc. I thought the amenities were sufficient:
2 children's play areas, outdoor gym equipment, 2 sets of picnic tables, a football/cricket (schools pitch) in the centre of the field. A cafe, a thriving community space, tennis courts, a bowling area/ theatre/ event space.
I'm not sure why we couldn't keep it at that? I wonder if it's in danger of becoming over 'curated' zones to the point where people won't have enough space to walk in the park and enjoy being in nature. Especially people who don't have access to their own outdoor space. It's only 17 acres for approximately 28,500 people. I wonder what % of them play cricket?”
Indeed, stats on how many cricket players (current or aspiring) live in the community surrounding Mayow Park would be very welcome!
ENVIRONMENT AND LANDSCAPE IMPACTS:
In the past, park surveys carried out by Mayow Park users indicated very many people value the variety and age of the trees, the gently sloping land, the shade cast by trees on hot summer days. They make this park so special.
So to what extent have these new nets enhanced the treescape and the flow of the park slopes? Realistically views of trees in particular have been negatively affected.
Take a close look at the proximity of the Holm oak to the site. Look around the earth works surrounding the nets as soon as you can and before the evidence is removed. Can you see tree roots sticking out of the uneven, scarred earth? Logic suggests they can only have come from the Holm oak. If anyone wishes to correct this logic, please comment.
|More tree roots|
Lewisham Council declared a climate emergency early in 2020. We are already seeing severe changes in weather patterns.
Surely parks should be recognised for the important contribution they make to help mitigate all the climate change challenges that are being thrown at us?
We can each make individual choices, reflecting our priorities and our desired future. Can the importance of attempting to spread the love of one sport across one parkscape be balanced against damaging an environment that some see as vital for everyone and not just one sporting group?
Only time will tell, when we see how the facilities are used and maintained, the grass will have grown back, and perhaps eyes adjusted to the new view…
|The new view from Recreation Rd entrance|