link to local news report. Apparently the fire was so intense by the time the fire brigade attended the scene at around 3am Monday morning, that any evidence to show whether this was a deliberate arson attack or an accident, may now never be known as everything inside the centre was destroyed.
The Information Centre was opened over a decade ago after being converted from an old toilet block into a new centre with a kitchen, disabled toilet and an area where there was a permanent small display about the parks history and wild life. Also within the centre was a marble statue of a woman with a cherub at her feet. The statue was found within the parks grounds during maintenance work many years ago. It dated back to the 18th century, and after being cleaned up, its new permanent home was just within the doors of the centre. The statue was said to be of the parks Grey Lady ghost. Many people claim to have seen the Grey Lady over the years. Some recollections are on the Cranford Parks Friends Page, and this is the link to the pages Memory Wall.
I have emailed Alison Shipley during the week, and briefly spoke to Bob Barton this afternoon, and both have confirmed there is a chance the statue may be beyond repair. The heat of the fire literally made the marble shatter. However the remains have been sent to experts for damage assessment. If there is a chance it can be saved, then the Friends of Cranford Park may hold some sort of fund raising event.
From my own personal view, I can honestly say the destruction of the Info Centre is a huge blow to me. My visits to the park were never brief, they would often last six or seven hours, and occasionally in the summer months I would spend ten hours on site if I was off work. The Centre was my base. It was my life line. It had the necessary toilet, it was a shelter during a rain fall, it was a hiding place for an extra layer of clothing or a flask of coffee, and it had a supply of drinking water. It also held important historical artefacts like the marble statue, which even though I knew was there, still often made me jump as the automatic lights came on. It also held a slice of a Yew tree that came down in one of the 1980s great storms, which was varnished and important time lines then tagged along its age rings. It was more than just a toilet block to me. It held a part of the parks history too.
My first sighting of the resident Little Owls was from the bench outside the centre as myself and Mac, one of the now retired Rangers, supped coffee on a chilly early summer morning several years ago. Three years ago from the same bench I watched Great Tits and Blue Tits battle over the nest box opposite the centre, the Blue Tits won and the Great Tits were relegated to a hole at the back of the supporting tree. The following year the Great Tits won. Every year from the same bench I watch Goldcrests feeding in the evergreens just feet away from me. A few years ago, before the new wildlife pond was constructed, I sheltered in the doorway of the centre during a heavy rain burst watching a family of Green Woodpeckers hunting ants on the grass in front.
That Information Centre meant a lot to me.