History and make up of the park
The area currently known as Sweyne Park Open Space was originally war time agricultural land, after which it continued in agricultural tenancy until transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to Rochford District Council in the late 1980's.
About 1990, the Council engineers created a circular bridle path on the land, planted a few trees and added a small lake.
In 1992, the area was handed over to the Councils Parks and Open Spaces Officer, who for the past 18 years has developed the park by planting trees, shrubs, whips and wild flowers. The majority of plants are fruiting varieties that encourage and support wildlife in the park.
The park is approximately 57 acres in size, with 2 kilometres of pathways and 4 Kilometres of hedging. This has been an ongoing project and various 'islands' of trees and shrubs have been planted over the years. In addition to this, willow cuttings, from another park in the district, were planted alongside some of the ditches and in the wet areas of the park; these have grown into beautiful trees that have solved the problem of waterlogged ground in these areas.
The central area of the park consists of a large 'hill like' meadow area that is very popular with dog walkers. To encourage ground nesting birds and other wildlife, this area is only cut once a year, however, there are mown 'pathways' crossing the meadow.
The lake was extended when the Downhall Park Way Housing Estate was built to create an Environmental Balancing Lake to help prevent flooding in the area.
This lake is divided in two:
- The upper pond, which is surrounded by trees, shrubs and grasses, with common reeds and lily stands on the pond edges that extend into the pond all of which provides an excellent habitat for wildlife.
- The lower pond is much more open and currently used by fishermen. The only fish originally placed in the pond over 20 years ago were some grass carp, to help keep the weeds down, however, over the years people have put other fish in this pond creating more of an 'ornamental' pond.
Some areas around the park, may appear to be unkempt and messy, but these are valuable wildlife habitats, indeed following a survey around the lake by Essex Wildlife Trust, they have advised us to leave some areas untouched and to create 'habitat piles' to encourage the wildlife.
To the north eastern corner of the park, there is a children's enclosed 'cloverleaf' play space, which has sections for infant, primary and junior school age children. This was installed in 1994 and there is a kicking/graffiti wall for teenagers, as well as a large area of mown grass where families can picnic or play games.
Species to see in the park
Birds: Blue Tits; Long Tailed Tits; Green Finches; Black Caps; Starlings; Blackbirds; Collared Doves; Whitethroats; Green Woodpeckers; Sparrow Hawks.
Trees: Willow; Oak; Alder; Elm; Poplar; Hazel; Wild Apple; Wild Pear; Hawthorn; Sloe; Bird Cherry; Scotch Pine; Various Acers
Amphibians and Reptiles: Common Frog
Mammals: Foxes; Bats
Grasses: Timothy; Ryegrasses; Chewing Fescue
Agricultural wild flowers: Meadow Salsify;
NB. An interesting wildflower to see when the grass is a full growth on the meadow is the Meadow Salsify, better known by it's old fashioned name of 'Jack go to bed at noon'. This plant flowers between June and October but will only open in the morning sunshine and closes by noon, hence the name!
How to get there
The main entrance to the park is from Downhall Hall Park Way, where there is a car park. Further entrances are at the top of Victoria Avenue; From the footpath at the end of Priory Chase; Downhall Park Way opposite the junction with Canterbury Close and at the cul-de-sac end of Downhall Park Way.
Please note there are no toilets or baby changing facilities in the park.