Starting a new project can be difficult, whether it’s a writer confronted with a blank page, or a homeowner taking those tentative first few steps with a renovation project, it can be an incredibly daunting experience if you haven’t sufficiently prepared. When The Oval’s asset transfer completed in July this year, our community group became the proud new owner of over three acres of lawned public amenity space, and a huge sunken amphitheatre! Fortunately for us the prospect of such a massive project was much less daunting because we had done a huge amount of preparation over the preceding years, so we knew exactly where to start.
Due to water ingress, there had been an electrical fire in the bandstand basement (yes, it has a huge basement!), so we had the consumer unit replaced to reinstate the electricity supply to the kiosk. To ensure the water was no longer a problem we also cleared the blocked drains around the bandstand, and to our horror we removed over five rubble bags of gunk and grime!
We then had a practical issue to attend to – the site didn’t have a postal address! To be allocated an address we needed a post box, so we installed one in the toilet block, and thanks to TDC’s street naming team we can now receive letters and deliveries!
As part of our ongoing plan to improve The Oval’s environmental credentials, our volunteers got to work early in July and installed a huge 120m2 wildflower meadow, which has been in full bloom since early September! It is still glorious and is providing significant nourishment for the bees. The Oval’s wildflower meadow was funded by GRASS, Thanet District Council and The Mayor’s Fund, so a huge thank you for making this happen!
When the flowers die back, we’ll be planting 5,000 bulbs so it will be a mass of colour in the spring before the wildflowers return next summer. If you’d like to help with the planting, please get in touch.
Additional beautification projects already completed include fitting eighteen lamppost hanging baskets, additional planting and composting at the flowerbeds on Eastern Esplanade (Cliftonville in Bloom gold prize winner of the public vote!), and the installation of the historic urn planters in the bandstand amphitheatre. Next up is the installation of two lavender flowerbeds at the top of the bandstand steps, the reintroduction the historic flowerbeds on First Avenue, and the creation of a gardening area on the existing hard standing so we can grow our own plants for the site.
Whilst we have big plans to improve biodiversity at The Oval, we also have an obligation to ensure the lawns are properly maintained as valuable public amenity space, which is essential in a densely populated urban environment, so to ensure they always look well cared for we have invested in a ride-on tractor lawnmower. We held a naming competition at the Cliftonville Games and a local resident came up with the brilliantly inspired ‘Trac-Thor”!
We have almost completed the fit-out of the kiosk and we will soon begin upgrading the toilet block to vastly improve the facilities. Other projects to be completed before next spring include the installation of three new dog-poo bins, lots of helpful site signage, four new bike racks, a new ramp so that more areas of the amphitheatre are accessible for all (including performers), and the full repair and redecoration of the bandstand structure (which is in a very sorry state).
As you can see, we certainly have our work cut-out for us over the next six months, and whilst all the site improvement works are going on we are also preparing for The Oval’s major regeneration project as part of the Margate Town Deal.
To keep up to date on The Oval Bandstand & Lawns regeneration projects, or to volunteer, please visit our new website www.theovalbandstand.co.uk, or scan the QR code above with you mobile phone camera app.