Friday, 7 August 2015

Northalla Park in Northolt.

I was hanging around Uxbridge with nothing to do and while I was waiting I drove to Northalla Park to see what it was like.

This is one of the first things I saw - typical of an Urban park, I guess.

This wouldn't be so unusual, either;

It's actually quite funny because the sign banning dumping is on a container full of broken up concrete.

This rubbish bin is also made of old rubble;

So are all the paths;

This is what I came to see;

They are four huge mounds all made out of broken up concrete and other demolition waste. You can easily see them from the very busy A40 road which runs next to the park.

You can see them clearly on Google Earth and you could definitely see them if you were on a plane.

They have become a landmark.

It was the school holidays and loads of people were out with their families;

The kids were just charging straight up the sides of the mounds, my one had a very gentle slope going up in a steady spiral - ideal for the elderly or the infirm like me.

Behind the family?

You can see for miles and that's the skyline of London; The Shard, The Post Office Tower. You can just make out Canary Wharf and the City of London too. You can see The Surrey Hills, Box Hill, Harrow on the Hill and even Hampstead and Highgate.

It's fabulous - Northolt is a suburban part of outer London where people never used to be able to see above the rooftops.

Obviously, there's a story here.

Back in 2000/2003 they were demolishing the old Wembley Stadium, home of the England Football team and the F.A. Cup final since the 1920's when it was built.

From the top of the mounds you can see the arch of the new stadium that replaced it.

The old stadium was pretty much solid concrete - that's how they did things back then.

In the meantime, the government was raising the tax on landfill, so the developers came up with a clever solution.

They offered to rebuild a windswept, blighted urban dropping several million tons of broken up concrete on it.


This is who it is;

The artist Peter Fink and architect Igor Marko are partners in FoRM associates a London-based design practice that looks holistically at the ‘livability’ of 21st century cities, creating places that are better to live in, work in and enjoy. FoRM associates are urbanists in the widest sense, working collaboratively to fuse urban design and landscape architecture with ecology, environmental design, masterplanning, architecture, branding, lighting, arts, media and engineering. FoRM’s hallmark lies in its ability to design functional and people orientated public realms that are inspiring both in their design and in reality.

And this is what they did;

The mounds are at the heart of a dynamic design developed to create a park for the 21st century at no cost to the tax payer. The funding of the £ 5.5 million park is unique generating both the income as well as the material to construct the mounds from the deposition of 1.5 million cubic meters of clean construction spoil making the park; for example; the final resting place of the Wembley Towers. The recycling of this amount of spoil has delivered a real shrinking of the ecological footprint of London by eliminating 160000 lorry journeys over 200 miles to outlying tips.

Northala Fields is a park that incorporates fully accessible fishing ponds, two children’s playgrounds, a marshland reserve, a model boating pond, cycle paths, open playing fields, and the four giant mounds. Yet, despite all these areas of different activity the site design flows together and creates the sense of being one harmonious park as well as Europe’s largest example of land-art.

And it works - the mounds are great fun, kids love them. I did too and they block off the noise and pollution of the dreadful A40 which roars past the site.

The work goes on, while I was there they were relaying the top of some of the paths. They are wearing out because so many people use them and so they are putting a layer of finely ground up building waste on top.

Then they are building an amazing children's play area with outrageous slides and things to climb;

And it's all made of rubbish. Mainly concrete but occasionally some tiles, sometimes a glint of marble and quite a lot of granite, like this broken paver;

This really is where the Twin Towers of Wembley stadium ended up.

There are sculptures carved out of old tree trunks;

What I like is that this unbelievable example of recycling never tries to hide what it's about - it's all built out of our rubbish.

So, there are benches made out of broken concrete....even The San Remo Café, rising out of the rubble itself.

I really wanted to throw away my walking stick and just run up the sides of the mounds like I once would have. In fact, I was able to climb one because it was designed with people like me in mind.

There are fishing ponds and there were lots of people fishing in the middle of the city. Each of these bays is designed so that disabled people could use them.

And they do - when I was there the majority of the fishermen had driven their mobility scooters across the park and onto the pontoons.

Kubla Khan

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772–1834
Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
Ok, I may have got a bit carried away there but there were fish and birds, there were trees and wild life.
There were bullrushes;

And just lots of people of all shapes and kinds having fun for free;

Now in an ideal world, the majority of the old stadium could have been incorporated into the new by a mixture of good design and recycling.

In an ideal world demolished buildings could be recycled into new building materials.

In a really ideal world we would stop knocking down buildings and think about the energy and resources that went into them.

But as a last resort, this is a good way.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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