Full transformation of Northala Fields is due next year, but the project to create a neighbourhood park started five years ago. The 19ha of open space next to a busy A-road in Ealing was given new form and cultural significance by a bold landscape design and strong community involvement.
The importation of 1.2 million cubic metres of rubble was sculpted into four conical hills to give identity and formal aura to the site as well as offering a visual and acoustic buffer to the nearby A40. The hillocks define a series of "biotic zones", meadowlands, grasslands and woodlands.
But Northala Fields is as much about the local people as wildlife. A central network of lakes is used by anglers and boaters as well as the local wildlife, while a network of paths link up to surrounding open spaces that form a wider countryside park area.
A new playground attracts a variety of age groups and users and is set along the central spine of the park, which also leads on to a series of open meadows, semi-formal planting and seating areas for more contemplative activities.
The park has pressed all the right cultural buttons, offering social inclusion and diversity, says the design team, which aimed to foster a "strong long-term identification of the local people with the aims of the park". This manifested itself in the formation of a Friends group and community initiatives such as tree-planting activities.
The real acid test of a cultural facility, however, is local reaction to a perceived threat to that facility. When a newly elected local authority tried to divert income away from the park to unrelated projects it was greeted with angry demonstrators, a petition bearing thousands of names and a local media blitz, just in case anyone doubted the place of Northala Fields in the heart and hearts of the community.
Telford & Wrekin Council - Friends of Apley Woods
Groundwork London - King George's Field Playscape
Haringey Council - Finsbury Park.