Crystal Palace has got a new ‘Vicar’s Oak’.
The oak – a tree stump supplied courtesy of the Dulwich Estate – has been planted outside the gated entrance to Crystal Palace park at the top of Anerley Hill as part of a new path and planting scheme – the final stage of a ‘Boundaries’ arts and heritage project.
The tree is a fallen oak from Dulwich Woods, making it a descendant of the Great North Wood.
An oak tree, the ‘Vicar’s Oak’, originally marked the boundary of four ancient parishes: Lambeth; Camberwell; Croydon and a detached portion of Battersea parish containing the hamlet of Penge. The site of the Vicar’s Oak remains the boundary of the modern boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, Croydon and Bromley.
Soon the Vicar’s Oak path and planting will open up an attractive, sensory space that visitors can walk, wheel or whizz straight through into the park. For those in less of a rush it will provide a meeting place, a place to pause and ponder the past or a place to enjoy colourful and scented planting.
Over the last two years local people have got involved in the Boundaries project as volunteers to research and share the heritage of why so many boroughs meet in Crystal Palace. Creative and social events have brought people together through walks, talks, visits, meetings and a performance and music event.
A new leaflet researched by volunteers and designed by Simon Richardson/Arcade78 ‘The Vicar’s Oak – where four boundaries meet’ is available locally and tells stories of the area’s boundary heritage. The Vicar’s Oak path and planting places this heritage under the feet of park visitors through its design, created by landscape architect Lou Yates and through an inscription in ceramic lettering made by local people and ceramicist Beth Mander.
A spokeswoman said: “Many local people of a certain age fondly remember the roundabout that, until 2002, stood at the top of Anerley Hill before being replaced by the current lights.
“Park visitors using the pedestrian crossing over Crystal Palace Parade may be less fond of the 1990s flower bed which hampered entry to the park. “The muddy path that cut across the grass and corner of the bed revealed a ‘desire line’ for quick access to the park.”
One volunteer who took part in the Boundaries project said: “The whole project opens your eyes up to what’s going on in the community. “It is not something that just stops now the project’s finished, it just goes on.
“To describe it to someone else who doesn’t know about it, you would have to say it is a mixture of history, which are the records that we have and that are available, and the boundaries that still exist and we can walk them as we used to do, and also it is about the variety of the people that you meet – which is the general population or represents the general population of the area.”
Sue Giovanni from Invisible Palace says: “The park gate by the bus station is called Boundaries Gate but no one knows this, it also doesn’t mean much without a bit of background information.
“Volunteers have worked really hard to create an engaging and functional new entrance to the park which will make crossing the busy junction on the Parade a more interesting and pleasant experience.”
The Boundaries project has been delivered by Invisible Palace through a partnership with Crystal Palace Community Development Trust. Work on site is being carried out by O’Rourke Contracting plc and is being supported by both culture and highways departments at Bromley council. The Boundaries project received a grant of £45,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund made possible by money raised by National Lottery players and funding from Crystal Palace Park Community Projects Fund.