Morden Hall Park: a National Trust country estate in the heart of suburbia
PUBLISHED: 20:03 16 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:54 20 February 2013
A former deer park, Morden Hall Park provides a taste of a country estate in the heart of suburbia – and now there's a new reason to visit, as Emma Brien reports
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2011
A former deer park, Morden Hall Park provides a taste of a country estate in the heart of suburbia and now theres a new reason to visit, as Emma Brien reports
A beautiful green oasis of 125 acres, just to the north of Sutton, Morden Hall Park has long been a popular destination for those looking to escape the suburban sprawl but now there is a whole new reason to make a visit to the park.
Last month, the director general of the National Trust, Dame Fiona Reynolds, officially opened a new Living Green Visitor Centre in the old 19th century stable block, aimed at providing visitors with ideas and inspiration for how to live in an environmentally friendly way.
The new centre houses a permanent, interactive exhibition about sustainable green living and renewable energy, explains project co-ordinator Caroline Pankhurst. There are also craft stalls for local artists, water-saving eco loos and a small caf. We are very excited about the opening of this centre, particularly as it has rejuvenated the previously semi-derelict Victorian stable yard and brought a key area of the park back to life.
A new focus
Bequeathed to the National Trust in 1941, Morden Hall itself was built in the late 1700s and has seen a variety of uses over the years from a family home, boarding school and military hospital to council offices, a teacher training centre and a restaurant. No longer open to the public, it is hoped that the new Living Green Visitor Centre will now become the focal point of the park instead.
The 2.5 million project, which received support from the local community, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other European funding, took two years to complete and as well as offering ideas and advice for making sustainable ecological changes, the restored stable buildings are themselves an example of sustainable renovation within an historic setting. Indeed, the centre was built with the specific aim of becoming one of the most energy-efficient historic buildings in the country.
For example, three different types of solar panels were installed, with one designed specially to blend in with original roof tiles. The centre also boasts an air source heat pump, wood burning stove, various types of natural insulation, such as cork, and under-floor heating. In addition, giant rainwater harvesting tanks in the stable yard provide water to flush the toilets. Finally, recycled and natural materials were also used wherever possible to build and decorate the centre.
Incorporating energy-saving materials and devices into modern buildings is now common practice, but older buildings present many different challenges, especially when they are listed or in a conservation area, says Morden Hall Parks property manager, Zoe Colbeck. This pioneering project has given us a unique opportunity to restore our 19th century building in a way that meets the environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Our aim has always been to show people that green living can be incorporated sympathetically into historic buildings. Plus, it can also be fun!
An ongoing project
National Trust staff and volunteers have been closely associated with the development of the centre, joining projects such as making a film of the park, devising a new audio trail and coming up with ideas for the exhibition area.
Meanwhile, work on the park is still ongoing. Over the coming months, Morden Hall Park will also see the installation of an Archimedes screw hydroelectric turbine in the River Wandle, behind the newly-renovated waterwheel. This will contribute further to the parks energy needs, with a view to enabling the National Trust at Morden Hall Park to become totally self-sufficient.
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Located off the A24 and A297, between Sutton and Wimbledon, Morden Hall Park is free to visit all year round, though donations are welcome. Open every day, it attracts 750,000 visitors annually, who come to stroll in the attractive parkland, take part in events and activities and enjoy a change of scene from the parks urban surroundings. Visitors are invited to explore the new Living Green Visitor Centre before enjoying a spot of shopping in the gift shop or a bite to eat in the restaurant. See www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southeast.