A magical day in Grangewood brought the community together to make the park’s 120th birthday celebrations a day to remember.
There was magic, juggling, face painting, children’s story telling and bubbles galore all served up with a large helping of cake and ice cream!
The sunken garden was transformed with music to chill out to from London ska band the Skamonics and Thornton Heath resident DJ Beatnik.
The weather was glorious for enjoying a cream tea on the lawns of the old mansion and an array of stalls offered an eclectic mix of local makers selling artwork, clothes and candles, along with information on the areas history and conversations to be had on how to grow an edible garden and be sustainable.
Jennie Dash, a local resident and performer posed as Lady Edridge, who was the mayor’s wife who opened the gates to the park in 1901, and entertained with Old Time Music Hall songs from those days.
Children enjoyed a number of workshops from Art in the Park and poetry from Croydon’s Poet Laureate and local resident Shaniqua Benjamin.
Kwilindi Whittingham said: ”What a great afternoon and good to see everyone so happy and enjoying themselves.”
Volunteers had worked tirelessly before and after the event to prepare the park for the special occasion which included mowing the grass in the sunken garden as it hadn’t been cut since April under the council’s revised cost cutting grass mowing regime.
Nettles were strimmed, greenery pruned, graffiti painted over and litter picked.
Having filled over 12 bulk bags with green waste – tables and chairs were ferried in kindly loaned by St Paul’s Church to recreate the cream teas which had been served up in the park’s bygone years when it was host to Croydon’s first museum and had thousands of visitors each day.
Sarah Newton said: “What an amazing day! We had lots of fun helping with the kids with set up and met so many fantastic people do stuff to help make the event special for a green space they love.”
Crockery and cutlery were kindly donated and boxes filled with sandwiches, cake and of course scones, jam and cream were provided by local baker Heidi Tompson and served up by volunteer Sue Ahmed.
Park events were put on hold during Covid but The Friends were determined not to allow the park’s birthday celebration to pass unmarked and raised £600 through a crowdfunding appeal to be able to pay artists.
Dijana Cakaric said: “This was community spirit at its best!”
The lockdowns saw the park rejuvenated and it is now once again bustling and busier than it ever has been with hundreds turning out to join the birthday celebrations.
Lou Killengray said: “I have to say, the community vibe was incredible. We moved to the area in January when I was 37 weeks pregnant. The park was a daily outing to keep me healthy. It also became a key spot for meeting other new mums in the area and, I have no doubt, it saved my sanity and nurtured my mental health at every visit. We love it.
“The party really showed us what a lovely community we’ve found ourselves in, something that was hidden from us during the lockdowns.”
Richard Holdsworth said: “We came with our toddler and baby. Can’t thank the organisers and contributors enough, a really lovely celebration. You should feel extremely proud for helping so emphatically to bring our community together. “
Karen Barnett who week-on-week provides activities for local children with Art in the Park ended the day with a spectacular procession while all those attending sang Happy Birthday to Grangewood Park.
Chair of The Friends of Grangewood Park Andrea Perry said: “The atmosphere on the day was magical. The feedback we have received has been so positive. We did the park proud but none of it could have been achieved without the wonderful support of the community and our amazing band of volunteers.”
The day also saw the unveiling of two new park benches; one dedicated to the late Alderman Adrian Dennis, a Freeman of Croydon who was the ward councillor for Thornton Heath for 20 years and a second bench remembering those we lost locally during Covid.