Valentines Park, in what is now the London Borough of Redbridge, was opened on September 16, 1899 and dedicated "to the use of the public forever". A grand parade of councillors, friendly societies, and cyclists in fancy dress was followed by a swimming gala in the lake, with three bands playing till dusk. Almost 100 years on, the park is showing its age, with its fine Jacobean mansion empty and in need of urgent repair.
The Friends of Valentines Park - local residents, teachers, historians and councillors - are campaigning to reverse the spiral of decline and make the park and mansion a focal point of community life again. At a symposium in July, Valentines was described as one of the finest examples of an 18th-century garden in an urban municipal environment. Many of its early features are still in evidence - the grottoes, canal and lake (home to a variety of wildfowl, left) - and a plaque marks the position of the famous Valentines vine, parent of the one at Hampton Court. Later features - an Edwardian flower garden, the drinking fountain, clock tower, and bandstand - are in need of restoration and there are plans to put boats back on the lake. Local schools and community groups will be involved in centenary celebrations next year and, if the Lottery Fund bid is a success, there will be plenty to celebrate. Friends of Valen-tines Park, 272 Cranbrook Road, Ilford, Essex IG1 4UR.