Historic Harlow parkland that has been part of the town for centuries is being restored thanks to an £80,000 project funded by Harlow Council and Essex County Council.
Oakwood Pond, situated near Princess Alexandra Hospital in Little Parndon, has been transformed thanks to a project being completed by Harlow Council in partnership with the County Council, contractors and local volunteers.
The pond and surrounding area has a rich history, possibly dating back as far as the 1100s as a stew pond for the Canons Brook monastery and later forming part of the grounds of Upper House in the 1700s. Unfortunately, in recent years, the area has been neglected and had fallen into disrepair; however the work carried out by the Council, contractors and local volunteers has helped to unearth this beautiful area once again.
The site is now on the way to returning to its former state, with the original parkland being restored, flood protection for homes in Canons Brook and Fold Croft in place and the general environment being improved for both wildlife and local people.
Work began on the first phase in September and ran for around six weeks. Council Officers, contractors and volunteers all worked together to:
- Remove excess trees and vegetation, opening up the area again and reinstating the original pond for local flooding prevention.
- Re-introduce the water supply to the pond by reconnecting spring water.
- Introduce new aquatic plants.
- Create a diverse range of water, vegetation- and wood-based habitats for wildlife and further restore the parkland.
- Improve access for the local community to and through the site from Upper Park to Harlow Town Centre and the hospital.
- Create disabled access points, fishing platforms and a new 360m access loop/footpath around the pond.
- Build a 30m boardwalk across a section of the pond.
- Install a number of bird boxes around the pond.
- Create a balancing pond planted with reeds to add to the biodiversity and filter the incoming water supply.
The new fishing platforms, which are available and suitable for people of all abilities to use, will also be used by the Stort Valley Angling Society to help teach young people and people with disabilities to fish when the pond is ready to be restocked.
To celebrate the work which has taken place, a special opening event has been held, which was attended by Councillors, volunteers, contractors and local residents.
Mike, who is one of the volunteers that has been working on the site, said:
“It’s been hard work, but very satisfying [when you consider] the state of it several months ago. The whole place has been opened up, more wildlife is going to come in, the fishing is going to come back – it’s a neglected piece of Harlow that has now been brought back to life.”
Councillor Danny Purton, Portfolio Holder for Environment, said:
"Oakwood Pond will be a place for residents to enjoy once again and provide educational opportunities for local people. It is also another great example of local volunteers and Council staff working together to improve our town.
“The plan is that this project will pave the way to make further improvements to the area in future. Once the water levels have increased and a natural food supply has been established, the pond can be restocked with fish.
“This is an area that has unfortunately been neglected over the years but, by working together with local organisations like the Stort Valley Angling Society, contractors and our fantastic volunteers, we can make this place really special and somewhere for everyone to enjoy.”