Ghostly lady left in pieces after blaze
Council and Friends to seek temporary home for park rangers and information centre
A DISASTROUS fire has gutted the information centre at Cranford Countryside Park and seriously damaged an historic statue of the mysterious Grey Lady said to haunt the site.
The blaze broke out early on Monday last week at the site in The Parkway, Cranford, which is managed by Hillingdon Council.
Among the items damaged was an 18th century statue of a woman and a Cupid that used to stand by the River Crane but was in storage inside the building.
The statue is said to have inspired the legend of the Grey Lady, who is rumoured to haunt the park.
Bob Barton, secretary of Friends of Cranford Park, said: “We think it is either arson or an electrical fault but as it was completely destroyed, you could not tell from looking.
“The police are looking into it and will inform the council’s green spaces team but, whatever the cause of the fire, we have to deal with it.
“It was the only shelter in the entire park and the kitchen facilities were used by our volunteers.
“We are in the process of working with Hillingdon Council to apply for a Heritage Lottery grant and have set up a steering group – made up of councillors, members of the Friends and MP John McDonnell – to get the 17th and 18th century buildings restored, and perhaps build a café or restaurant and amenities for visitors. It is very much in the early stages, but we are talking with the council to use an 18th century stable block in the park as a meeting point, so perhaps that could be brought into action as an interim measure after the fire.”
David Brough, chairman of Hayes Town Partnership, said: “It’s really sad because the Friends group have done a brilliant job.
“For a long, long time Cranford Park didn’t have any group working on it, and the Friends have completely transformed it.
“They have a vast amount of things going on there, so to lose that one place where they had their information and exhibition they had created is a disaster.”
The information centre was converted from an derelict toilet block in 2000 using a government grant, and contained a kitchen, toilet and a small display about the park’s history and wildlife.
It is only a few months since thieves stole tools used by cancer patients in the park’s Secret Garden, prompting a generous response from Gazette readers, who paid for the tools to be replaced.
A London Fire Brigade spokesman: “We were called at 2.02am to a ranger’s hut that was alight.
“We had two engines at the scene but were told by 3.13am, that Cranford Park Information Centre, a one-storey building, was 100 per cent damaged.
“Police were also attendance.”
Councillor Jonathan Bianco, the council’s cabinet member for finance, property and business services, said: “We are making arrangements for the fire-damaged materials to be removed from the building and are getting quotes to have it restored and put back into use.
“We are also hoping to get the statue restored and are continuing to evaluate the damage.”
n CONCERNED: Members of the Friends of Cranford Park – (from left) Dhush Selvarajah, James Savage, Lynne Dunne, Ron Bateman and secretary Bob Barton; (inset) the statue of the Grey Lady is thought to be beyond repair
Photos by Grant Humphreys www.buyaphototms.co.uk WL201410752