Elenor Hellis

  1. JUST A PRETTY LANDFILL?

    Northala Fields is an award winning Country-style Park located in Northolt in the London Borough of Ealing, which opened to the Public in September 2008. The Park won a Green Flag Award in 2009. The innovative £5.5 million project began in 2000 with Ealing Council’s decision to transform derelict land alongside the A40 in Northolt which was once Kensington and Chelsea playing fields. The redevelopment of the 45-acre area was a necessity, as the area had become an eyesore.

    The four large conical earth mounds along the A40 edge of the site also help to reduce visual and noise pollution and provide a unique landmark for the park and the borough. In particular, the viewpoint on the top of the tallest mound (which is 22 metres) provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding area. It offers quite dramatic views over London. The North of the view is dominated by the McDonalds, and much of the rest is generic London housing- but in the view of the Southeast the whole city of London even the far distance right through the docklands can be seen. The Wembley Arch can also be seen peeking over a nearby hill, which has conveniently covered the rest of the stadium from view. If you look carefully you can also just make out the London eye on the horizon, although at this distance it is difficult to see against the background sky.

    Northolt and Greenford Countryside Park Society are made up of the people from the local community. It ensures that the park is retained as an area of natural beauty, which is safe, enhances the environment and improves local amenities. Active engagement of local people has been important to the park’s success for example the local school children were involved in the design of the playground for which they now get to use.

    The park has also been praised for its disabled access. Panoramic views can easily be accessed on the third mound with the gentle spiralling sloped pathway made from a mixture of tarmac and crushed brick and gravel. There is also a good provision of benches throughout the park.

    However not everyone supported the construction of the park, one source claimed that Northala Fields was “an area of scrubland that used to have some nice biodiversity now supports nothing at all. A huge step backwards for the greening of London”. On the contrary the potential wildlife value of Northala Fields has been greatly improved with the re-modelling of the site from what was an unused sports ground to a brand new park. New areas of habitat have been created using native species, of local provenance where possible. The approach to the design of Northala Fields has been a careful balance of providing a significant contribution to biodiversity in the area, whilst ensuring that the design meets the requirements to minimise the potential bird strike hazard to aircraft from the nearby Northolt Aerodrome. Each mount has been created with varying soil conditions that supports wildflower and grass seed mix to give four distinct habitats. A number of the habitats that have been created at Northala Fields are identified within the Ealing bio-diversity Action Plan. These are:
    -Neutral and marshy grassland
    -Mound side wildflower meadows
    -Streams and swales
    -Woodland and scrub.

    The wetland habitat provides opportunities for wetland invertebrates including dragonflies and damsflies, while the diverse wildflower grassland provides resources for a number of terrestrial species of invertebrate.

    One local source is quoted questioning the purpose of Northala Fields. “Isn’t it still a landfill, just a “pretty” landfill?” The Northolt and Greenford Countryside Park society recruited a firm of consultants, led by landscape architect Peter Fink, who came up with a solution, which included the creation of four man-made hills on the south side of the carriageway. It would become part of a park called Northala Fields. Mr Fink realised that a number of huge civil engineering projects were about to get under way in west London, including the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium and a giant shopping centre at White City. Many were aware that the builders would need to get rid of large amounts of what is known in the trade as spoil or “muck away”. Mr Fink was quoted during an interview: “We offered to take all this spoil at our site, charging between £70 and £90 per lorry load, which meant the developers only had to haul it 10 miles rather than 100 miles to a landfill site”. This process reduced the overall ‘carbon footprint’ of sites such as Wembley and White City. Around 60,000 lorry loads of spoil and concrete was dumped on the site, which generated so much money the council actually made a profit out of Northala Fields. The spoil was used to create the four hills and the concrete was crushed and used to make gabion-walls surrounded by steel cages, which provides a spiral path up the tallest hill.

    Enviromesh have supplied 270 traditional welded-mesh gabions for when Northala Fields was first commissioned. Enviromesh were asked to design and supply 17 litterbins and 54 benches to be strategically positioned around the lake, play and relaxation areas within the park grounds. With prototypes approved, the bins were mounted on specifically made pedestals and all products were hot-dip galvanised to give the design life requirements. To cater for the use of smaller aggregates, specially fabricated mesh panels (25.4mm square aperture) were produced to contain the filling medium. Enviromesh also provided the fixing idea to connect the bench seats and timber tops to both items.

    One sourced commented “What a fantastic idea looks very much like an iron age fort great for walking the dog or kids looking out on a warm summers day I think more should be built great for wildlife”. In fact the name ‘Northala’ is how the old manor of Northall (known today as Northolt) was recorded in the Doomsday book of 1086. A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave. Tumuli are also known as barrows or burial grounds and can be found throughout much of the world. The word tumulus is Latin for ‘mound’ or ‘small hill’ from the tum- “to bulge, swell” also found in tumour, thumb and thigh. Perhaps the artificial mounds could be compared to tumuli the only difference being that the tumuli were made using manpower with shovels, wheelbarrows and bare hands to bury the dead. Whereas the mounds of Northala were made using mechanical processes with machines such as backhoes, excavators and tractors. Rather than bury the dead, in Northala lies the rubble, soil or ‘ashes’ of the great Empire stadium and the White City development area or what I believe to be the last remaining grains of the Franco-British exhibition of 1908.

    The original Wembley Stadium, officially known as the Empire stadium was erected in 1923. It was a football stadium in Wembley, a suburb of northwest London. Today the site is occupied by the Wembley Stadium that opened in 2007. It is famous for hosting the annual FA cup finals, the European cup finals, the 1948 Olympics, the 1966 World Cup Final and the 1985 Live Aid Concert. Wembley is often referred to as the “Cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football”. In recognition of its status as the world’s best football stadium. The twin towers were once an icon for England and Wembley before their demolition in 2003, which upset many members of the public.

    Westfield London is a shopping centre in White City in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. The Centre was redeveloped by the Westfield group at the cost of £1.1 billion, on a site bounded by the West Cross Route (A3220), the Westway (A40) and the Woodlane (A219) and opened on 30 October 2008. The site is part of the White City district, where several other large-scale development projects are under way or in the planning stages. The development is on a large Brownfield site, part of which was once the location of the 1908 Franco-British exhibition.

    The Franco-British exhibition of 1908 was a large public fair held in London in the early years of the 20th Century. The exhibition attracted 8.5 million visitors
    and celebrated the Entente Cordiale signed in 1904 by the United Kingdom and France. The Exhibition was held in an area of West London near Shepards Bush which is now called White City: the area acquired its name from the exhibition buildings which were all painted white. The Fair was the largest exhibition of its kind in Britain and the first international exhibition co-organised and sponsored by two countries. It covered and area of some 140 acres (0.57km), including an artificial lake, surrounded by an immense network of white buildings in elaborate (often Oriental) styles. Imre Kiralty a famous exhibition organiser in his time- developed the exhibition grounds on farmland on 140 acres at Shepards Bush where he built the Great White City Stadium. The stadium was a last-minute addition when London took over hosting the 1908 Olympics. There were some 120 exhibition buildings and 20 pavilions. They were linked by a network of roads, bridges and waterways and centred around an artificial lake. Meant initially as a trade fair, it was also undeniably a fun fair, with a lot of music all around and several exciting attractions, notably the famous flip-flap.

    “White City” later hosted other exhibitions and poignantly was used during World War One as a drilling ground for army recruits. During the Second World War the exhibition halls were also converted into a parachute manufacturers. After the War the site became the administrative buildings of the BBC. The impact of the Exhibition was soon drowned in the chaos of both the World Wars but the success of the 1908 Olympic games contributed to the Olympic movement becoming a worldwide spectacle with international cooperation, quite a timely reminder when London prepares to welcome once more the Olympic Games this summer. As for the stadium it became a site for greyhound racing but was demolished in 1985. The whole site was left derelict for years; the building sadly was never built to last, until it was redeveloped. But it has never quite seen the same glory again! The only thing that remains are street names Canada Way, Australia Road, Commonwealth Avenue and presumably the last grains of rubble and soil on Northala Fields. The last remaining buildings, of the 1908 exhibition were demolished to make way for the Westfield Development. The BBC Television Centre, opened in 1960 and the Westfield Shopping Centre, which opened in late 2008, now occupy the exhibition.

    When all this earth was being built I wondered what kind of idiocy this was, but I finally went and looked again yesterday- on a Sunday morning. The park was busy with people enjoying themselves, cyclists, walkers, runners, kids on swings, families relaxing and some spectacular kite flying. It was working like a proper park. The way the mounds go round and round the main one. The view at the top was pretty good. I could see masts of Crystal Palace, one way, the control tower at Heathrow and way beyond it, the London Eye on the horizon too. The Gherkin in the City and its neighbours were very clear. Next time I shall take some binoculars. The setting sun obscured the view to the west, but I’m sure there was plenty to see there too. And looking north made clear the nature of Northolt Village, now surrounded by modern developments. Now rather than idiotic, it looks to me like a very sentimental place packed with the remains of modern British cultural heritage.

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  2. Melting Plastic

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  3. A series of alien like creatures forming and morphing into something else, never appearing quite the same.

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Elenor Hellis

The Body Camera

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