Northala Fields: An Unusual Landscape

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Northala Fields is a recent addition to the parks of Greater London. It was opened as recently as 2008 and is now an award-winning park. Located in Northolt, it is unique in its make-up, having four artificial mounds, a large fielded area, and several lakes for fishing.

The park area covers 27.5 hectares, which is the equivalent of 68 acres. Northala Fields is on the site of the former playing fields in the Royal Borough of Kensington as it was leased to the borough in 1938. The eastern perimeter was the old Ealing Road and was subsequently renamed as Kensington Road.

 

The Origins of Northala Fields

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The park started out as a part of larger-scale project: the Northolt and Greenford Country Park project and it is located behind Rectory Park which is a much older park. Its name “Northala” is how Northolt manor was recorded back in 1086 in the Domesday Book.

 

Neighbours of Northala Fields

As mentioned above, Northala Fields is a park that forms part of a larger collection of small parks, countryside sites and playing fields called Northolt and Greenford Countryside Park (NGCP). NGCP covers 270 acres (110 hectares) of space in London’s Borough of Ealing toward the northwest.

It is like a countryside patchwork which offers a belt of green space that is of great value in terms of nature and conservation. The A40 crosses this area from the west to the east and there is also the Grand Union Canal which runs from north to south.  Of the whole countryside park area, Northala Fields is the highlight and is the dominant site in Northolt and Greenford Countryside Park.

 

Designing the park

Northala fields playground

The design of the landscape was taken on by a practice in London called FoRM Associates. This is a company run by Peter Flink, Rick Rowbotham and Igor Marko.  This firm operated for a five-year period between 2007-2012.

The three founders comprised of an architect, landscape architect and an artist, which, with their unique mix of great talents, most certainly have done the park justice. The landscape architect, Rick Rowbotham, however, was not actually credited with the park project as it was originally classed as Public Art.

The creation of Northala Field park was at no cost to taxpayers and was a full multi-disciplinary collaborative effort including new technologies with help from scientists and artists to rejuvenate the contaminated and abandoned site.

The ideas included allowing the park to generate its own energy supply. In addition, the park would have multiple uses and purposes: it serves as a hub for educators and environmentalists and supports various ecological habitats.

FoRM Associates worked in true collaboration with the community – it was not just lip service or a token gesture to involve the locals. This has resulted in a park which is fully accessible, has two children’s play areas, a pond for model boating, playing fields and cycle paths. The design flows well together and gives a sense of harmony. As mentioned, this park is classed as land art, which many residents had not realised.

 

How is Northala Fields Unique?

The uniqueness of this park does not end with the fact it has four man-made mounds as its eye-catching centrepiece. The four artificial hills tell an even more interesting story in that they are made from the rubble gathered from the original Wembley Stadium when it was demolished five years earlier.

By building in this way, rubble was not sent to landfill (in the traditional way at least!) and has also resulted in less waste for the environment including in emissions due to the short distance the rubble needed to travel.  In fact, it helped to generate its own cash by charging construction firms up to around £90 to dump a lorryload of spoil.

 

Developing Northala Fields

Given that this park is in its infancy in comparison to the more established parks that it neighbours in Greater London, its wildlife, flora and fauna are continuing to develop and establish. There are six inter-connected fishing lakes, wildlife ponds, wildflower meadows, streams and, of course, scrub woodland.  Because of its newness, it will take a while for full woodland to develop here.

As a result, at present, tree maintenance is at a bare minimum. Arborists will be working the in the park to ensure that tree planting takes place appropriately and that tree surgeons, as well as tree experts, will be on hand as the park develops in the coming years.

Native species are encouraged by the creation of the new habitat areas, tending toward species of local provenance. Indeed, the four centre-piece mounds were all provided with different soil types and conditions so that they are individual in their grasses and wildflowers that will grow there. This, in turn, will reflect the diversity that’s expected for the many terrestrial invertebrates.

 

Award-Winning Park

Northala Fields was first opened to the public in 2008 and was crowned the winner of the Landscape Institute in its inaugural year. The following year it also won a Green Flag award (2009) and has also been a WAN Urban Design Award finalist. Lastly, and most recently, it won the HW Landscape Amenity Award for the Most Outstanding Commitment to the Community.

 

Northala Fields and The Future

There is no doubt that Northala Fields will continue to develop as the park grows older. The flora will continue to flourish into grasslands, meadows and woodlands of established trees that will eventually require tree professionals and tree specialists to work alongside the parkkeepers so that the park continues to thrive.

Northala Fields will go on to attract the vast array of visitors to the park that it is used to, including its weekly Parkrun which has attracted over 500 runners before now.  One thing is for sure, for a park in its relative infancy, it is developing and flourishing a great rate.

 


Article was written by Louise W.

Article Source: https://www.graftingardeners.co.uk/northala-fields/

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