Covering approximately 98 hectares, Beckenham Place Park is the London Borough of Lewisham’s largest green space. The site dates back to around 1760 when Beckenham Place Mansion (originally Stumps Hill) was built on land acquired by John Cator, a prominent timber merchant and Member of Parliament. The land, together with other land purchase from neighbouring properties, was set out by Cator to become formal gardens and parkland.
The parkland, including a municipal golf course established in 1907, was acquired by the London City Council in 1927, and passed to the ownership of the London Borough of Lewisham in 1972. In 2016, the Mayor of Lewisham made the decision to close the golf course as the council were unable to make it a viable concern. This led to a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) application for the renovation and restoration of the Edwardian parkland to its original condition. This was granted and work commenced in 2018.
As part of the major National Lottery Heritage Fund for the restoration of Beckenham Place Park, idverde was appointed as Principal Contractor to deliver the landscape enhancement works, that included the removal of an 18-hole golf course from the Edwardian landscape and restoration of the park to its original condition.
The project included a significant earthworks element involving 70,000 m3 of material being excavated and placed within the park as a balanced cut and fill operation to the exacting tolerances required.
The earthworks focussed on the excavation of 22,000m3 of material to create a natural swimming lake at exactly 4-metres depth, with a sand beach and natural reed bed margins to aid filtration. Works also included the introduction of ground water and bore hole feeds for the water supply, with balancing chamber to control the water levels. An aeration system would also contribute to water quality. Further excavations involved the creation of a visitor car park in the face of an embankment, requiring the removal of 8,000m3 of material.
During the excavations of the lake unrecorded contamination in the form of asbestos and elevated PAHs were discovered. This required a significant change in approach to retain the materials on site. idverde, using its extensive experience in site remediation, proposed a solution to create a burrow pit on site and encapsulate the contaminated material within the extents of the park, providing a sustainable and cost-effective solution. This required the development of a remediation method statement and close liaison with Environmental Health Officers and the Environment Agency.
Excavations were utilised to restore the Edwardian landscape features, including removing the plateaus, tee boxes, greens, and bunker features from the golf course. In addition a 7-metre high viewing mound was created.
Accessibility was improved across the site with the introduction of pedestrian and vehicular paths across the site and the improvement to existing surfacing around the curtilage of the Mansion House and Stable Yard complexes.
The setting of the Mansion House was enhanced with the removal of incongruous elements, such as the toilet block and the carpark to the frontage, restoring the historic carriage drive.
Site-wide estate railings were installed to form the pleasure grounds, where a diverse play ground was implemented. Works extended to the restoration of the walled garden, removing extensive tarmac areas and disused tennis courts. A new irrigation system was installed to support the change and introduction of an elaborate soft landscaping scheme.
Once profiled, the top soil was replaced and the areas were reinstated to grass and wildflower meadows, using conventional seeding, hydro-seeding and turfing. The diversity of trees was also increased in an arboretum style with an additional 100 trees added into the contract works. The scope of works also included a new compound to support site operations and management.
The discovery of site-wide contamination required a change in the approach to remodelling the landscape and resulted in a two-month period of standing time associated with the lake construction while the strategy was approved. This pushed the completion of the lake works into unfavourable months, and a 12-week summer programme had to be condensed and accelerated in 6 weeks to have the lake lined before winter. This was achieved successfully to ensure that the winter rains could be taken advantage of.
As the landscape renovation works were part of the on-going restoration of the whole Estate, including the Mansion and Stable Yard, we had to work in parallel with other contractors (working under separate contracts with London Borough of Lewisham) to coordinate and manage the single access driveway into the site.
The Mansion House remained operational, so careful planning and the safe management of vehicle movements into the park had to be coordinated both to minimise both disruption to the public and ensure that the operations of the mansion for weddings and events continued.
The distribution of materials across the 98-hectare park posed a challenge as the park remained open to visitors. Careful planning and management were required to ensure the safety of park users, particularly on the long-distance walling routes such as the Green
Chain, as well as protecting the integrity of the existing landscape.
Acting as Principal Contractor, idverde is very proud of the success of this project and playing a part in the restoration of an historic landscape and creating a ‘new’ and very popular public open space, packed with exciting sustainable amenities whilst reflecting its heritage.