Radnor Gardens Friends Challenge Plans

Not all restoration plans are plain sailing.  Radnor Gardens is a small park next to the Thames in Twickenham, near the site of Pope's Villa and Strawberry Hill.  It takes its name from Radnor House, which stood there until destroyed by a bomb in World War II.  Two eighteenth-century buildings, a gazebo and a bath house, survive in the park, and a number of historic trees.

Tree Felled

The trees included a listed Indian Bean tree catalpa preciosa, planted in 1902 to mark the opening of the park and said to be the largest of its type in the country.

Last year the tree was felled by the LB Richmond upon Thames on health and safety grounds after the council's tree experts diagnosed it as "infected with honey fungus".

The anguished Friends disputed this, claiming the decision was related to the proposed building of a children's playground nearby.  They commissioned external tree experts from the Tree Health Division of the Forestry Commission (FC) to inspect the stump.

The FC report stated "There were no indications it was suffering from a root-killing fungus such as a honey disease."  It did acknowledge that decay was present, which would have been of major concern given the proposed proximity of the children's playground.

Following the dispute, the LB Richmond upon Thames, who insist the felling was justified, have revised their procedures for felling protected trees to allow local residents to be warned beforehand.

Ham Vistas

War Memorial Radnor GardensRadnor Gardens lies on the Middlesex bank of the Thames within the landscape being restored by the Thames Landscape Strategy (TLS) and opposite the proposed vistas over the Ham Lands on the Surrey bank.

The TLS team wanted to move the eighteenth-century bath house down to the riverside to be the focal point of a new vista from Richmond Hill across the Ham Lands.  This too ran up against the Friends' guardianship of their park.

Initially supportive of the plan, the Friends say the revealed vista from Richmond Hill has turned out to be not the anticipated view of the war memorial in the Gardens (featured on the cover of LL Spring 2005 - see picture opposite) but a white-rendered retail outlet, over the road.  The Friends also objected to proposals to plant trees at the roadside to screen the view of the retail outlet from the Surrey bank of the river.

As a result, the scheme was dropped.  "The plan was carefully researched," said TLS project co-ordinator Jason Debney. "We wanted to make the wonderful old bath-house folly a focal point by the river.  Now that the protestors have made their views felt, we have listened and the United Nations Monuments Commission has withdrawn its offer of £50,000 support to move the structure."

But things are now looking up.  Recently the Arcadia executive, the TLS team, Council officers and the Friends began fresh discussions on how the local residents' views can be accommodated in plans for the improvements to the Gardens.