Ghostly lady left in pieces after blaze

Coun­cil and Friends to seek tem­po­rary home for park rangers and in­for­ma­tion cen­tre

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By and

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.”

in

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

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