Annual General Meeting 2017: Report

The Friends’ AGM was held on 5 April 2017. President, Sir Angus Stirling, welcomed those present, and the minutes of the 2016 meeting were approved.

The Trustees’ Report for 2016 was presented by Andy Walker, the main points being:

•    Proposals and consultation for the improvement of the Holland House environment and café yard.

•    Restoration of the 18th-century Earl’s Court gates.

•    New and clearer directional signage in the park.

•    Approval of RBK&C’s Ten-Year Strategy for Parks, in the creation of which the Friends had played a considerable role.

•    Significant increase in the Friends’ grants to the park: total £33,142.

•    Production of two guides: ‘Decorative Art in Holland Park’ and ‘Notable Trees’.

Simon Lindesay-Bethune gave the Treasurer’s report for 2016. The balance for the financial year 2016 was £86,470: down on 2015 due to success in increasing funding to the park in 2016. Event income was down, and trustees aimed to address this issue over the coming year. The full accounts had been circulated in the spring 2017 newsletter.

The Secretary’s Report was delivered by Rhoddy Wood, who said that membership stood at 980, of whom 150 were new members, and others were expected to renew. Members were encouraged to sign up for Gift Aid and to pay by banker’s order. She thanked those members who had encouraged others to join, and also thanked the 21 members who saved the Friends ca £2,400 a year in postage by hand-delivering newsletters.

Election of the trustees. All nine trustees had agreed to stand again and were duly re-elected.

Election of the independent examiner. Roger Foreman was re-elected.

Chairman’s Outlook for 2017. Chairman, Jennie Kettlewell, emphasised that the last two years had been a period of building foundations for improvements the Friends wished to see in the park. Some of these improvements were now beginning to be realised. She was pleased to announce that new member, Silvi Spassov, had agreed to act as FHP Accounts Co-ordinator (see below). There were some interesting questions from the floor (some of which have been addressed, as will be seen in the newsletter).

Much has happened since the AGM, and this is an opportunity to update members, rather than report on the situation as it was in early April (see News Update).

[Summer 2017]

Silvi Spassov Joins as the Friends’ Accounts Co-ordinator

Silvi SpassovWe are delighted to welcome Silvi Spassov to the new role of Accounts Co-ordinator. That means he handles all the day-to-day accounts and payments, and he keeps the trustees informed on the state of our finances. Silvi is a qualified and experienced accountant, having worked for many years as a PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant with client-facing roles, which means he well understands how to build relationships with others in a team. We are already enjoying working with him and hope he will equally enjoy working with the Friends.

Silvi lives locally, was already a member and loves the park, but he can express this better himself: ‘My love of Holland Park has been developing for many years and I became a member of The Friends of Holland Park with great passion. I always wanted to be more involved in the activities run by the Friends, and an opening for an Account Co-ordinator was a great opportunity for me to bring my expertise and knowledge to the charity. Recording the daily life of the charity by preparing the accounts and assisting the trustees with ad-hoc work, I can see the enormous work, effort and love everyone puts into this job. I feel extremely honoured and privileged to be part of this.’

In the short term, the Chairman will retain the financial oversight role of Treasurer, but this will be reviewed over the coming months. Simon Lindesay-Bethune continues as Assistant Treasurer.

[Summer 2017]

News Update

Landscaping improvement

Following Planning and Listed Building consent for Camlin Lonsdale’s plan to improve landscaping around Holland House, Blakedown Landscapes (SE) Ltd have been appointed to carry out the work. This major project will make the café yard and Holland House terrace much pleasanter spaces in which to spend time, and the re-siting of the access road to the terrace will be safer and less disruptive to café users. Much needed conservation work is proposed for the masonry of the walls and steps related to the terrace. Work will commence in late September 2017 and be completed before the opera build starts in March 2018.

Holland House conservation

At last a Condition Report on Grade-1-listed Holland House and the exterior of the East Wing has been commissioned, as required by the Conservation Management Plan for Holland House. While we await the results of the report, we hear that recent high wind has uncovered defects in the stonework, and some stones have had to be removed from the building for safety. This is as we had feared and highlights just why the Council must not allow actions determined in the Conservation Management Plan to fall behind schedule. Careful repairs were last carried out on the building in 2007-8 as a result of the property being put on Historic England’s (then English Heritage) ‘At Risk Register’. We want to see the great old structure safe and preserved so that it can be enjoyed by future generations, and do not wish to see it ‘at risk’ again.

Sustainable Drainage

You will have noticed that the path from the car park to the D Garden has been closed for some weeks in order to carry out work to channel rainwater into small overflow basins in the woodland. This is to make use of the water for the park, rather than lose surface water to the sewerage system. The path is unlikely to be open until early July.

Recycling unitsRecycling units at car park entrance

The old recycling bins were being misused and causing a mess of dumped rubbish which was not a great welcome to the park. Smart new units are now in place, with clear signage and little space between for rubbish. On the front of each is a photo of the park, supplied by The Friends with the intention of showing potential miscreants that we have a beautiful park that is not enhanced by their rubbish.

Schedule of works

There is so much work scheduled for the park in the next 18 months that Park Management have produced a helpful schedule of projects and timing (see inside back cover of newsletter).

Text and photo: Jennie Kettlewell

[Summer 2017]

Map of the Park

There was a request at our AGM for a map of Holland Park with all the places marked on it. We have produced one, and you can download it here. Please keep it; we hope you find it useful.

[Summer 2017]

Barrie Maclaurin Wins Award for Kyoto Garden

Barrie Maclaurin, former Parks Manager for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, has been chosen to receive the prestigious Japanese Sato Award for International Exchange. This award, in memory of Mr Akira Sato, is presented to individuals and organisations for outstanding achievement in fostering exchange between Japan and other countries on the subject of parks and green spaces. The citation for the award explains just why Barrie was chosen:

Barrie Maclaurin receiving his award‘As Parks Manager for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, London, Mr Maclaurin has greatly contributed to the promotion of cultural exchanges and mutual understanding between Japan and the UK through his work with parks and Japanese gardens. His efforts have included presenting Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden to the Emperor and Empress during their visit to the UK in May 2012; developing the new Fukushima Garden and holding its opening ceremony in July 2012; promoting cultural exchanges with elementary school children in Fukushima Prefecture’s Miharu-machi in November 2012; erecting and holding an unveiling ceremony for a stone monument bearing the words used by the Emperor to express his gratitude for the aid provided for relief activities following the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2013; and presenting the Kyoto Garden and the Fukushima Garden to the Speaker of the House Representatives Ibuki during his visit to the UK in September 2013.’

Barrie was invited to receive the award at a ceremony in Tokyo at the end of May 2017, where he was treated royally in celebration of his achievements. He will feature in Japanese media, including the Japanese publication ‘Parks and Open Space’.

Barrie is obviously delighted, and we are proud on his behalf and very grateful for all he has done to ensure Holland Park’s Kyoto and Fukushima Gardens are authentic in concept. We must ensure they remain that way.

Jennie Kettlewell

[Summer 2017]

Generous Gift Funds New Mediterranean Bed

Andrew WhiteleyAndrew Whiteley was a long-term member of The Friends and someone who not only loved trees and shrubs, but was extremely knowledgeable about them. Being a classics scholar, he knew and was very fussy about the Latin (botanical) names. When he became ill some years ago, he told me he wanted to leave money ‘for nature’. He left his ‘nature’ money to a friend and asked me to work with that friend to choose projects of which Andrew would have approved. Sadly, Andrew died in 2014, but the money has funded wonderful projects in his memory: Japanese cherry and maple trees for the redesigned Azalea Garden at Kew, a habitat study at Barnes Wetlands, some funds for The Tree Register (a record of Britain’s notable trees) and rare Rhododendrons from Wakehurst’s plant nursery for Holland Park’s Fukushima Garden.

So, what about the Mediterranean Bed in Holland Park. In recent years this 80m-long flower bed along the old brick wall on the north side of the Dutch Garden has outgrown its structure and has ‘forgotten what it is meant to be’. In spite of careful management of the bed by IdVerde, it needed a complete overhaul. A donation of just under £14,000 from Andrew’s money was made to the Friends for this purpose.

The intention is to give a structure to the planting scheme that ensures the bed will look good for many years. That structure will be provided by sizeable ‘anchor plants’, interspersed with plants of varying size, shape and texture. Predominance of evergreen species means the bed will look good in winter as well as summer. Bulbs and perennials will add some colour, but not so much that it clashes with the main attraction, the formal beds in the centre of the Dutch Garden. In keeping with the Borough Parks strategy, the planting will be sustainable in the sense that it will not need regular replacement. The microclimate of the old brick wall allows inclusion of some unusual plants from areas of the world that enjoy a Mediterranean climate. We hope it will both look beautiful and please those who follow a botanical interest, but it will be a little while before the bed is fully established. That is the nature of good gardening.

The first anchor plant in the bed is a rare Lyonothamnus floribundus (Catalina ironwood), which bears panicles of creamy-white flowers in early summer. Once the bed is planted up we will tell you about all the different plants so you can go and identify them for yourself.

Text and photos: Jennie Kettlewell

[Summer 2017]

Membership Cards and Subscriptions

Those of you who use your membership cards to receive discounts when shopping with some of our Friends & Neighbours might have noticed that the end of February is when your card expires. A new (cream) one was enclosed with the Spring newsletter if our records show you as having paid your subscription for 2017. Your order form would have been white. All subscriptions were due on 1 January except for those who joined after 1 September 2016. If we think you have not yet paid, there would have been no membership card and your order form would have been green with a standing order form on the back. Over 600 of our members use standing orders, as it means they never have to remember again, and it helps our treasurer too. Current minimum rates are £12, or £9 for the over 65s, with joint subscriptions available for two people at the same address for £20, or £15 where both are over 65. You will agree these are very moderate sums, but we keep them low to enable all to join.

Our records are not infallible, so do contact Rhoddy on 020 7602 0304 or if you have a query.

However you pay, we are most grateful for your support as it gives us clout in all our dealings with the Borough and other bodies.

[Spring 2017]

Holland House and Café Yard: Landscaping Plan

Computer generated image of proposed cafe yardAfter a year of plans, consultation, discussion and revision, the proposal for the enhancement of the Holland House terrace, café yard and re-siting of the approach road, an application for planning consent was lodged with the Council on 27 January 2017. A number of pre-planning meetings took place to ensure that the RBK&C Planning Department felt the proposals were appropriate to the environment of Grade-1-listed Holland House.

Public consultation ran until 24 February, so by the time you read this newsletter, the proposals will have undergone a further level of scrutiny, and planning officers will be going through the process of making a decision. That decision will come before the Planning Application Committee in the second half of March.

Computer generated image of proposed Holland House TerraceWe set out in our last newsletter what we consider to be improvements to the area, and we believe all the consultation and debate has been worthwhile, as the new landscaping will make the café yard and the Holland House terrace much pleasanter spaces in which to spend time. The re-siting of the road will be safer and less disruptive to café users.

The drawings that accompany the application are the best way of showing what it will look like, and you might still be able to view the many documents on the RBK&C planning website under case No. PP/17/00353.

On the assumption that the plans are accorded consent, the work will start immediately after the 2017 opera season.

Jennie Kettlewell

[Spring 2017]

Notable Trees Guide

Many members will have enjoyed the guide to the notable trees of Holland Park we wrote in 2007, and might even still have their copies. It is now out of print and, because of continuing demand, we decided to re-issue it. We found that a shocking 20% of the trees described have been lost, so we have re-written it to include new specimens, both newly planted trees and others which deserve attention. The new book has over 60 trees as compared with 50 in the old one. The overall format has been retained, and the same artist, Nina Barranca, has drawn leaves to illustrate the new inclusions. It is still A5 and easy to carry. The trees are arranged in walk order, but the walk can be joined at any point and indeed may take several occasions to complete depending on how long each tree is studied.

We think all members of the Friends should buy a copy, at only £5, and perhaps extra copies for Christmas presents. Please download an order form here and order now.

[Winter 2016]

The Earls Court Gates Looking Splendid

Earls Ct gates restoredMany of you have commented on how fine the Earls Court gates look now that they have been beautifully restored and are back in place. They do indeed look splendid.

The 3rd Lord Holland had the gates brought over from Belgium in 1836. The arrangement of the gate panels is 18th-century French, and the whole would appear to be a pair of fine French 18th-century gates, acquired in poor condition in the 19th century, restored and extended in the early 20th century, and equipped for their present position with new overthrow and railings to match.

The few leaves that remained before this recent restoration probably formed part of the original gates, as do the basic iron sections. The copper leaves, the baron’s coronet and the adjacent railings, belong to the 20th century.

At the start of the current century, the gates were again in a sorry state. Leaves and other bits had fallen off, but fortunately some of these had been picked up, stored and eventually taken off site for safekeeping, in 1999. The Friends knew that the bits were being held by Topp & Co., and they pushed for repair of the gates, but the high cost delayed action – until this year. Funding was eventually made available through the 106 Agreement with the Commonwealth Institute developers.

On 6 January 2016, Topp & Co., who are experts in bespoke architectural metalwork, carefully detached the gates and took them to their workshop in a large hangar on a disused airfield in North Yorkshire. That was where the painstaking task of restoration began. For the next six months skilled craftsmen worked on what they describe as a giant jigsaw, with several buckets of retrieved items, mostly leaves and scrolls, to fit together. They used their original condition-survey images from 1999, and historical records, to restore the gates as closely as possible to the state they were in when originally installed in Holland Park.

The restoration work involved completely stripping the paint, then carefully removing all the leaves so that the framework could be thoroughly cleaned and made rust free, before assessing the work needed to make the frame sound. Any heavily corroded or missing scrollwork was restored or replaced using genuine wrought iron, hammer and anvil. The leaves were individually assessed and repaired when possible. Missing leaves were replaced in copper, using traditional skills. After final reassembly the gates were painted and then gilded using 780 sheets of 23½ carat gold.

New gate detailThe gates were delivered back to the park and fitted in place on 14 July, with the people from Topp & Co. who re-installed the gates, looking justifiably proud of their work. Our iconic gates look very elegant: the gold gleams and the full intricate design is once again on show. Being practical, the Parks Police were able to satisfy themselves that the old keys still work.

Now the surrounding brickwork will receive some much needed repair work, so that the entire entrance will look elegant by the time the Design Museum opens in November this year.

Jennie Kettlewell and Rhoddy Wood

Photos by Joy Puritz and Jennie Kettlewell

[Autumn 2016]