We are a voluntary group, founded in 2019, that improves the river promenade in Kingston upon Thames.
A potted history – QPF through the years
In 2018 Julian Meers expressed interest in this ‘forgotten’ area at the Surbiton end of the Queen’s Promenade opposite Ravens Ait. He was given the go ahead and some funding by Kingston Council to start clearing the land surrounding the old gardener’s hut.
In March 2019, Queen’s Promenade Friends (QPF) was formed as a community group, volunteers joined up and the project of creating a pocket park began.
History of Queen’s Promenade
Queen’s Promenade is an one-mile-long stretch between Surbiton (Raven’s Ait) and Kingston upon Thames. It was constructed along the Portsmouth Road, initially as an exclusive riverside walk for residents who lived in the newly built nearby mansions. It was arranged to be inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1856 and later opened to the general public. It was the home to rowing and sailing clubs, had (and still has) several piers for river cruise companies.
The early years – 2018
- QPF initiated ad hoc litter picking events
- Set up the Friends’ group charity, including constitution, as an unincorporated association
- Supported by Kingston Voluntary Action and Citizen Zoo
- Commenced to restore the derelict site around the defunct caretaker’s hut.
The early years – 2019
- March 2019: started restoration of the old caretaker’s hut (installed kitchen, new toilet, tool shed)
- Transformed its immediate surroundings into a Pocket Park
- Unearthed and restored old Victorian railings and benches
- Community outreach: GoodGym and Nandos support
The first job was to install a new roof on the Victorian gardener’s hut. Then over the course of the next two years, wheelbarrows of soil and rubbish were taken away to make way for raised beds and water butts.
The Pocket Park also features some restored artefacts found during renovation, including benches, paving blocks and a Victorian era Royal Borough of Kingston post with its distinctive 3 salmon logo. Other items were built and installed from scratch by volunteers, including a bug house, bird feeder and a bench made from a disused wooden electric cable reel and a church pew.
QPF in 2020
- Covid 19 struck and forced us to slow down. Volunteer days restricted in accordance with prevailing Covid measures.
- When possible, we continued (safely distanced) to work on the Pocket Park, redesigning an area using recycled Barley twist tiles, designed a fernery, built a small compost and a bug hotel, installed water butts and laid paths
- Designed and built a seating area made of an old cable drum (genius!), and recycled a discarded Victorian fence
- First steps outside the Pocket Park: a seating area and restored Victorian bench installed
QPF in 2021
We started spreading out along the Promenade, sprucing up areas immediately around the Pocket Park. Riverview Garden
(lovingly named so by volunteers) received a make over with a wildlife hedge planted along the Portsmouth Road fence,
designed flower beds, donated planting and a loggery. Graham created signs made of slate, providing a natural
looking guide to newly restored sections.
- Increased social media presence.
- Project ‘Entrance Revival’ saw some neglected areas, where visitors access the Promenade, pruned, weeded and replanted.
- Outreach to Surbiton High School (gardening session) and Lloyds Bank volunteer day (clearing Ginger Bees café bed).
The Pocket Park was officially opened May 2021 by the Mayor. In the space of just over two years the area has been transformed from a derelict and neglected wasteland into a haven of nature by the river.
Read our blog post: How the Pocket Park was built
QPF in 2022
- We created a winding woodchip path through Riverview Garden and placed a second restored Victorian bench in it, with a sign attached commemorating local people affected by the Covid pandemic.
- Two ornamental trees (cherry and pear) and a Guelder rose hedge planted in ‘Figgy Garden’, donated by volunteers.
- Ongoing litter picking, weeding, pruning and planting throughout all seasons.
- The summer drought tested our resilience and we placed water butts strategically to keep plants alive.
- Coordinated a special session with Surbiton High School; 60 pupils, parents and teachers clearing an overgrown bed.
- Juilan stepped down in November and Stefan took on the role of Chair.
QPF in 2023 and beyond
- Restoration of a section of Victorian terraces, severely overgrown for decades. We have turned it into an Italian Garden, opposite the Italianate St Raphael’s Church. We have partly funded the planting through our first crowdfunding project.
- We have created two new gardens: (1) Raven’s View Garden opposite Raven’s Ait island, with a climate change resilience concept in mind and (2) Sensory Garden located at the ferry landing steps next to the yacht club building, with a newly commissioned mural by us too.
We have numerous projects on the go, and more plans and development. Check out our page, Current projects for details.