In just a couple of hours on an scrumptiously warm spring day, our team of energetic volunteers hacked back masses of weedy growth from Dinosaur Island. Loppers cut away the destructive Buddleia, sturdy forks dug out unwanted roots and willow was whacked to create space for exciting new, scientifically appropriate plants to fill their place.
Many volunteers were from the local area and had seen our FaceBook posts and fliers calling for help. Helen, a “massive local enthusiast” said she practically lives in Crystal Palace Park. She told us: “I’m in the park every weekend, walking, feeding the ducks, even running the Race for Life. I’m helping out today as it’s a great way to give something back.”
Martin, who works at the Natural History Museum told us: “I used to get brought here by my mum, then I used to bring my kids and now I bring my grandkids to see the Dinosaurs. I’m hoping one of them will become a palaeontologist – although at the moment he’s also interested in becoming a ninja!”
It was a great atmosphere and many on the team were keen to carry on long after our scheduled finish time. Owen and Benji, both students, came with Benji’s mum, Laura, an aromatherapist and therapist. “I used to bring my kids here – their dad grew up in Crystal Palace and we used to have such great days in the park. Gardening is so good for well-being. I’ve bought my teenager and his friend along today. I’m having a real “proud mum moment”. The boys worked hard to clear creeping ivy from a tree and digging out the roots of another. Having just pulled up a big root, Benji said: “I used to come here when I was little and it’s nice to make a difference today and help make it more special.”
We couldn’t have cleared so much without our fabulous volunteers, so a huge thanks to all of them – including some North London friends. Nick from Holloway found it especially lucky to have been given the chance to come onto Dinosaur Island. “I love secret places. I live in North London but South London is my spiritual home. I love South London history and it’s great to be able to come on the island and come to this special place.”
As Claire hoiked out a big grass next to one of the dinosaurs, she said, “Now I’ve stood next to them I can appreciate just how big the dinosaur sculptures are!”
Our next volunteering day is on Sunday 20th May. If you can lend a hand or two, please apply to join us! Gardening helps the Dinosaurs and gives you a great few hours on the unique island.
Watch this space for details of the wider project which will include free educational talks, spectacular street theatre, family-friendly art events and behind-the-scenes island conservation tours.
Go to the Palaeo Planting Project main page for a link to the sign-up form.