Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Vicar's Oak

If it wasn't for this particular ancient oak, the Triangle might never have come into being, and even worse than that, this blog would not exist! The almost mythical Vicar's Oak, stood somewhere near the junction of Church Road, Westow Hill, Anerley Hill, and Crystal Palace Parade, and was used for centuries as a boundary marker between four parishes including Lambeth and Camberwell. Now of course it is where four of Greater London's Boroughs meet: Southwark, Lambeth, Croydon and Bromley.
The oak could so easily have been forgotten, buried under layers of tarmac and traffic lights, until a local charitable organisation, Invisible Palace, decided it deserved to be marked in some way. The location, at the southwest corner of Crystal Palace Park, was chosen for a design by garden designer, Lou Yates, who also sought to improve the poor current layout where the most convenient route from traffic island to park gates involved trampling over a municipal flower bed. This 'desire' line was facilitated in the design for Vicar's Oak path, by replacing the single bed with 2 separate ones either side of an oak trunk from a deceased tree felled from a nearby remnant of the Great North Wood, which once covered this part of South London. 
Set into the ground around the oak, are decorated ceramic letters announcing, "Near this site, stood the Vicar's Oak boundary tree". The letters were made by volunteers, under the guidance of Beth Mander at the Paxton Centre, and indeed, once the groundworks were done, all the planting was also carried out by local volunteers.
And so, two weeks ago, the path and garden were formally opened by Bromley's Deputy Mayor, Councillor David Cartwright, accompanied by a talented local children's steel band, Panash.
Congratulations to all who were involved in this wonderful community scheme, may the Great North Wood, and in particular, the Vicar's Oak, live on in local folklore.

The Panash Steelband

Speech given by Julia Honess who was one of the project's co-ordinators
Deputy Mayor of Bromley, Councillor David Cartright

Deputy Mayor doing the honours

The garden's designer, Lou Yates

From left to right: Jules Hussey, Trustee of Invisible Palace, Lou Yates, garden designer, Julia Honess & Sue Giovanni, project co-ordinators