Sir: – The recent news about the threat to Orleans Gardens and Swings has really upset me. I feel so frustrated that it feels as if, despite so much opposition, this plan has been allowed to gain such momentum. Where is the simple online survey that says: ‘Do you want the Gloriana to be housed in Orleans Gardens? YES or NO’? I have yet to meet someone who wants it. But I feel compelled to write because there are letters in the paper that suggest there are people in favour. I urge those people and Lord True to come down to the swings and spend some time there.
I can’t believe that anyone who has spent time in these beautiful gardens would want to change them. I would love to join you and sit with you and explain why for so many in our community they are so important. I could bore you with my childhood memories of playing this stick game on the roundabout or when I first learnt to use a big swing on my own. I would tell you about how much fun we had as teenagers hanging about in the early evenings. My husband and I grew up in this park, we got married in the Orleans House Octagon Room and walked through the park after the ceremony.
Despite not being able to afford to live as near it as we did, we still see it as such a special place. I bring my children here now. My four year old just mastered the monkey swings after about 200 hours of trying. My dad used to bring my Gran here till she was 99 and my husband’s Gran has a bench in memory of her looking out to the river. You could rightly say these are just my memories and what right do I have to stop change.
But by now you would have been sitting with me for some time and you’ve probably started to appreciate the most important bit of all: how peaceful and tranquil the gardens are. You’ve probably noticed that the trees provide this beautiful, mottled shade and when the wind blows you can hear it through all the leaves. You can also smell the river. I didn’t realise this until I was down there savouring it last week but you can if you sit for a while.
Forget the millions of shared memories, these swings offer a sanctuary to everyone that goes there. Just look at the faces of the people there, the children, the grandparents, the dog walkers, the cousins, the aunties and teenagers. How happy and content they are to be free from health clubs and membership fees and gymborees and skinny frappuchinos and queues and traffic and ipad apps and modernisation and upgrading.
Orleans Gardens provide a place for children to be free to play and people to be present whether on their own or with others. The plans for the Gloriana would destroy this. I believe the Gloriana deserves a lovely home but please just put it somewhere else.