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Newsletter – March 2024

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Newsletter – March 2024

Dear Friends,

In all the newsletters over the past 15 months I have written about what we do and upcoming plans. Naturally, this is a lot about our gardens along the prom and group activities. This month, I would like to highlight something different, as various occasions brought some important aspects home to me. So this newsletter is dedicated to our place in the local community and the reactions that our efforts inspire.

February highlights

For the first time, we had the opportunity to exhibit at Surbiton Farmers’ Market. It is a much-loved local institution that not only sells mouthwatering food but also charitably supports a wide range of community groups and projects. As Charity of the Month, we rolled out our bunting, positioned the A-frame and handed out flyers. Some shoppers knew us well and cheered us on, others were intrigued and quite a few can now put faces to the changes they’d noticed along the prom. Donations were gratefully received, and we cannot thank Natasha from the market team enough for making it happen, with her strong and generous support.

On a similar theme, the Kingston Society invited us back to present our group, achievements and plans to its audience. On a cold and wet evening, we were warmly welcomed by Tony, the chair, who has been following our activities with much interest and who thought the word should be spread wider. Apart from our presentation, we were absolutely thrilled by the keen interest from the audience. There were so many thoughtful ideas, questions, and suggestions that we seriously overran the Q&A. Quality community engagement, thank you!

The community responds to our efforts in many ways: some give a wave and a smile when they see us out there digging and weeding, many others stop by and engage in a chat, people walk in to explore the Pocket Park, share ideas, get inspiration from our planting schemes for their own gardens, express wishes for memorial trees, offer tools and plants. Is it hyperbole to say that we are well woven into the local community fabric and are, excuse the pun, a true grass roots group? The two Johns from Anglers Reach offered surplus plants from their beautifully manicured community garden. And Surbiton High are back on Wednesdays tending to their very own flower bed near Ginger Bees.

Saving the best for last, I am immensely proud to let you know that we have reached a fundamental milestone with RBK Council. At the recent Kingston Neighbourhood Committee meeting, we presented substantial funding requests for critical repair work on the prom. The councillors overwhelmingly supported our aims and again expressed their gratitude for all the hard work the volunteers put in. I know very well that the Mayor is a strong supporter, too. As a result, we will see (1) the raised seating area, formerly used as a bandstand, repaired and refurbished, (2) the collapsed retaining walls rebuilt all along the prom and (3) the wretched toilet block refurbished. This is serious infrastructure investment in our neighbourhood and shows that the council recognises our impact and is on side to contribute its part to the prom rejuvenation. Thanks to everyone involved, a long roll call of names I dare not list at the risk of missing someone!

And just in case you wondered whether we stayed indoors most of the month, think again.  There was much outdoor activity around winter pruning, weeding and shaping the exploratory woodland trail.

March in focus at QPF

We have arranged a joint session with Duke of Edinburgh students under the Habitats & Heritage umbrella for this Saturday 2nd March. We will mainly focus on clearing as much of the bindweed and thistle infestation as possible at ‘Spaghetti Junction’. We will also put together a stag beetle log pile in our Woodland Garden. Glendale are supporting us with a stack of tools and their trailer. Hands to the pump at 10am, see you there.

We are turning last year’s sunflower festival into an annual tradition. This is a call-out to all volunteers and residents to join us in making the prom the home of sunflower hotspots once more. Here is the list of preferred varieties:

  • Titan / Giant Single – giant dinner plates/platters
    • Autumn Beauty – warm, earthy-toned blooms
    • Claret / Chocolate – chocolate brown ones
    • Lemon – zingy light lemon ones
    • Tiger Eye – yellow petal with a deep-red inner ring

If you are interested, please start putting seeds out soon, so that the plants are ready for a planting-out session in May. So-Shan is co-ordinating the show again, please do get in touch with her directly or visit our social media sites.

Another annual tradition, and necessity, is to dedicate one of our winter sessions to the maintenance of our tools. We will have to survey all tools, disinfect, sharpen, oil and repair them. Graham will be spearheading it again, please look out for the date when it is known.

It’s been a mild and wet winter which has kicked nature off earlier than usual. As we go into spring, the colour palette on the prom is brightening. The early pink and purple cyclamen are still on display, now joined by yellow swathes of daffodils, magenta crocuses and tulips and early cherry blossoms. If you haven’t been down by the river for a while, do come and enjoy the panorama; and do come back in April/May when there’ll be a few thousand tulips of all colours on show. Can’t wait. Who can?

New joiners

A warm welcome to Natalie and John who recently signed up to join our community. Please do come to one of our volunteer sessions and find out more. If you’d like to get into the groove of weeding and planting, even better.

Last but not least

If other members haven’t worked with us for a while, or always wanted to but never quite found the time, please don’t be shy. Keen interest, some skills and energy are all that is needed. Please bring some gardening gloves and a mug. We hope you enjoy it.

Please remember to check our various social media sites for regular updates. For any donations to the Queen’s Promenade Friends please see our QR code below or contact us directly.

Looking forward to seeing you on the promenade.

Stefan

Chairman, Queen’s Promenade Friends

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