Finishing touches are being made to Shaw Forest Park over the next few months to complete a major green lung close to the centre of the town.
From the air the land has been shaped to represent Gaia, the ancient god of the earth, on its side. The humps and bumps that can be seen from ground level close to a large events field and car park, represent its head, shoulders, hands and leg, on its side.
Last year a network of stone footpaths was built and in April contractors planted 5,000 trees to add to the 60,000 planted since 1994 when the project to turn the former landfill site into a country park was included in the Great Western Community Forest 30 year Master Plan.
1 May was the fourth anniversary of a huge gathering of 1,500 people on Mead Way to protest at the possibility that the park could be commercially redeveloped to include a new football stadium for Swindon Town. Many had attended three community days over the previous ten years, to plant trees with their children as symbols of hope for the future. Some had scattered ashes of loved ones on the site. They were appalled that a project that they had been so fully involved with could be sold off.
The forceful campaign had a quick result when Swindon Council in July 2004 reaffirmed its policy made ten years previously that all three phases of the developing park would be protected from development.
Later this year footpaths and drainage will be completed, the Mead Way entrance will be improved, with a large new sign, and fencing is to be erected around the car park to prevent people driving onto the events field. In May grass and wildflower seeds will be scattered across the head and shoulders of Gaia to turn the whole park green by the summer.
Landscape architect Chris Annis said, “Shaw Forest has evolved over quite a long period and has involved the community at many stages in its development. The park should look wonderful over the summer and I’m hoping lots more people will visit to see the work undertaken over the last few years.”