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woman leaning against Katherine Buchan meadow sign, in the Hanwell meadow

Seventh heaven at wildlife meadow

An award-winning haven for wildlife and a friendly spot for chatting to a neighbour, right on the doorstep. Sounds blissful, doesn’t it? Well, you can find such a place in the heart of Hanwell.

The Katherine Buchan Meadow is a 7-year project lovingly crafted from what used to be a ‘rest garden’ created in the 1970s, a patch of open space in the midst of a terrace of houses and opposite a primary school. Where once was a litter-strewn and overgrown tangle, used for local dogs to relieve themselves, now lies a landscape of cleverly-designed benches, paths, grass, wildflowers and wildlife habitats.

Back in 2017, the project got off the ground thanks to funding from Ealing Council’s Transform Your Space programme (now called Future Ealing), and crowdfunding efforts by local people – as well as a huge amount of elbow grease from them, supported by the council’s parks team and park rangers.

“This project will create a beautiful, tranquil place to be enjoyed by everyone in our local community,” said Amanda Rutkowski to Around Ealing when the funding was first received after she and neighbours had put the idea forward to the council and other people living nearby. She continued: “Having a communal space is so important to the people who live around here, especially because some do not have gardens; and, for others, we hope it will help relieve feelings of isolation by creating somewhere you might want to spend time and meet your neighbours.”

Fast forward

Well, 7 years later, and those aims have been more than achieved – with multiple awards and happy neighbours both attesting to this fact.

The meadow has been awarded a Green Flag quality mark from Keep Britain Tidy most years since 2018/19 and, last year, achieved a gold award from London in Bloom.

When we went down to visit again in April this year, Amanda told us: “More than the awards, the biggest accolade is that it is used by the local school and it is used by all ages, young and old, and it is now a genuine community space. So, we have done what we set out to do.”

wooden path winding through wild meadow in Hanwell with building in the background
Katherine Buchan Meadow

The final touches were added to the meadow in recent months, with specially-created information boards and signs going in – showing what wildlife can be found there and explaining the site’s history. It was named after Katherine Buchan, who built almshouses for women on the site in 1876, and they lasted for 100 years.

Adding the new boards has completed an impressive team effort by the residents, which was led by Amanda, who is a gardener and designer by trade, and neighbour Sim Flemons, who specialises in garden design and build projects.

They are among 5 trustees and 3 volunteers on the committee of The Katherine Buchan Meadow Trust, a charitable company limited by guarantee set up to oversee the project.

‘A lovely place’

“We all find the meadow so relaxing and a great place to socialise,” said Amanda. “You can pop out for 2 minutes and find you’re out there for an hour. In the evening, the bench faces the sunset which is lovely. It is stunning in the golden hour. It is now somewhere to sit, and where people stop to talk as they pass through. We also hold events here, including at Christmas. It’s a lovely place to live.

“People used to walk around the space, not through it. It was an unloved place where people dumped rubbish, and it increasingly attracted low-level anti-social behaviour. Now it’s so different.

“Creating a sustainable wildlife habitat was another of our aims, and we have stag beetles here, all kinds of insect life and birds, including in our bird boxes; as well as squirrels and foxes visiting all the time. We have a nature detective trail and a mini beast hunt for children to take part in, which we created for Earth Day.”

St Mark’s Primary School, which is opposite the meadow, uses the nature trails and children enjoy the space at school pick-up time.

Both the school’s Parent School Association and the local Charity of William Hobbayne have helped with recent fundraising, to replace timber posts marking the paths through the meadow. And a Meadow Masters scheme was set up to encourage young people to get involved in maintaining the meadow.

But the team is always on the look-out for more volunteers.

“You can’t tame nature and it is a constant learning experience, but you do need to manage it, so we are always on the look-out for more volunteers and funding,” explained Amanda.

To get involved, email katherinebuchanmeadowtrust@outlook.com

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