A BRIEF HISTORY
The land now forming the Woodcote Millennium Green has passed through the ownership of monks, lords and developers over the last thousand years. It now flourishes under the stewardship of a Trust whose members are passionate to retain the character of this landscape gem.
The Woodcote Millennium Green is unique in Surrey. It comprises an area of 2.9 hectares (7 acres), bounded by Woodcote Green Road to the north and the Woodcote Estate to the south.
The land was originally part of the estate of the Manor of Horton, owned by Chertsey Abbey until the dissolution of the lesser monasteries in 1536-7. After passing through several owners, the Manor passed to the sister-in-law of John Evelyn, the 17th Century diarist. Woodcote House was re-built at this period, on a site which is now just south of the Millennium Green.
Woodcote House was acquired by Sir Edward Northey (1652-1723) in the late 17th century and became the family seat to the Northey family for 250 years. The present house dates mainly from the early 19th century. Photographs of the area show an open, wooded landscape with cattle grazing by the pond. The pond is shown on the earliest Ordnance Survey maps of Epsom and surroundings and must pre-date the mid-19th Century.
20th Century developments
In the late 1930s, Woodcote House and the surrounding land was sold to Earnest Gabriel Harwood, whose building company developed most of the land for housing, forming the Woodcote Estate. Woodcote House itself was subdivided into flats, recently undergoing a major refurbishment.
Establishment of the Millennium Green
In 1999, the Harwood family donated a large portion of the remaining woodland including the pond to be held in perpetuity by the Trustees of the Woodcote Millennium Green Trust. The Mayor of Epsom and Ewell officially opened The Woodcote Millennium Green in July 2000.
A brief summary of this history is included on the information display panel on the Green.
CREATING THE MILLENNIUM GREEN
Chaired by local resident and County Councillor Chris Frost, a group of residents took on the challenge of transforming this 6 acre site of overgrown brambles into the attractive piece of managed natural woodland that it is today. Landscape architect Robert Petrow was employed to produce a masterplan and contractors were employed to clear the brambles to create open glades and install the first phase of connecting paths. This was completed in time for the official opening in the summer of 2000. A large number of local residents turned out to celebrate with a steel band, ice creams, teas, children's sports, a marquee with various displays and a cake stall, and an inter-road tug of war competition.
It is very rewarding to see the Green well used by local residents, hospital workers and patients alike. The paths are wheelchair friendly and frequently used for this purpose. Several solid wooden benches have been donated (all to the same design), and have been sited for maximum enjoyment of the surroundings. It was a condition of funding that there should be a permanent feature and a human sundial was designed by Sue White. It comprises a ring of marble slabs marked with the hours of the day and a central slab on which a person stands to create a shadow on the time. It is set to British Summer Time and is reasonably accurate.
Funded by local contributions subsequent projects have included an avenue of red twigged lime trees (Tilia platyphyllos 'rubra'), an extension of the network of paths, encouraging wildlife habitats, installing bird boxes, further tree planting and the always demanding job of clearing the pond. The main task is now maintaining the area so that future generations will continue to enjoy this amenity. Volunteers (mainly the trustees!) do much of the maintenance work and notices about maintenance days will be posted on the new Display Panel. Grass cutting in the glades and open spaces is in itself a very time consuming occupation. Safety is another important issue which trustees take very seriously and tree felling and lopping dead branches often take priority at maintenance days. The trustees are very conscious that in the future when volunteers have run out of steam, the Trust will need financial resources to ensure that maintenance will continue ad infinitum. To this end they have initiated a Millennium Green Patron scheme.
It is always easier to find funding for creating than maintaining, but sustainability is all important.