Dog Damage You may have seen Councillor Merrick Cockell's 'blog' on the RBKC website about the damage being done to trees by dogs. If you did, you would have been as shocked as I was, thinking that the most they could do was cause die back by repeatedly cocking their legs on the first plant they came to in the Park.

Fighting DogsThe problem, however, is far more serious, as the photo of a tree in Lime Tree Walk, Holland Park clearly shows. Young men, and they are predominantly young men, owning fighting type dogs, use trees as training aids for their dogs and in the process, kill the trees. Last year over 240 trees in the Royal Borough's parks were ripped apart by these powerful dogs. And it's not just trees; swings in children's playgrounds are continuously being ruined.

Of course this is not simply a question of despoiling our parks and open spaces. It is indicative of a much more disturbing malaise. A dog that can do this sort of damage is not a suitable house pet, but not everyone seems to want a dog as a pet. Some young men are doubtless using these dogs as a macho status symbol designed to frighten or intimidate others. There is no way that a park that is being used by people to train fighting dogs can be a safe and relaxing place for residents. The idea that you can focus a dog's potential aggression on destroying a tree and be assured that they will never harm a human is ridiculous, but often claimed. Councillor Cockell would like to hear from you if you have seen dogs being used in this way. He wants to take action to put a stop to this as soon as possible.

Happily, Holland Park has not yet been too badly affected, but we cannot afford to be complacent because this sort of crime is easily displaced as increased policing in one area moves the culprits to another. If you do see this sort of activity in Holland Park, please phone the Parks Police on 07973 124066 or 126146. [Autumn 2008]

Head Gardener  

We are very sorry that Stella Fear resigned with effect from 31 August.  In the three years that she has been here she instigated and carried out a number of the most popular improvements though many park visitors will not have known who was responsible.

Her first major impact, within a month of arrival, was to redesign the entry from the Earl's Court Gate.  This had been under discussion for some years but without getting anywhere.  Stella produced a completely new plan over two working weekends and project managed the implementation as funds became available over the next year.  It is widely agreed to have been a great success.

Also much admired have been her bedding schemes for the formal garden.  "Stunning"," The best bedding in the Dutch Garden for years", "Schemes that are colourful without being garish" have been some of the comments.  She also designed, implemented and maintained the containers on both sides of the opera site which do so much soften the surroundings of the theatre in season and will ornament the bare site in winter.

Underlying these physical improvements, has been her skill with her staff.  She arrived after her post had been empty for six months and found a team that was demotivated and purposeless.  She immediately set about re-enthusing them by setting gangs clear tasks and spending her time circulating round them to encourage and check on progress.  Formal appraisals were instituted.  She also mentored four of her team to acquire NVQs, the first time such a scheme had been available in Holland Park, and introduced and managed the new apprenticeship scheme.  As well as paid staff, she introduced and managed Volunteers in the Park.

Stella has always been most helpful to the Friends and we used her lovely photo of a corner of the Dutch garden in 2007 on the cover of our last issue.  Her work was rewarded by the park maintaining its Green Flag status and by achieving a gold medal in London in Bloom in 2007 and a silver gilt in Britain in Bloom in 2006, though she would be the first to say that these awards honoured many other people as well.

We thank Stella for the three years she has given to Holland Park and wish her well for the future.  May she find that rose-covered cottage of which she is dreaming! [Autumn 2008]