December 5 2013 Latest news:
Ramzy Alwakeel, Reporter
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Not too many parks can boast a permanent celebrity – but Raphael Park is now the proud home of Percy the Park Keeper.
And Percy’s creator, kids’ author Nick Butterworth, popped down to unveil the new statue yesterday afternoon, joining the families who had braved the rain.
Nick, originally from Gidea Park, based his much loved character on Raphael Park’s warden 25 years ago – so it’s fitting Percy has come home at long last.
He’s even got a wheelbarrow, much to the delight of six-year-old Alexandra Hopkins – although he’s not the fastest barrow pusher.
Percy is just one attraction in the new £7,500 picnic area, paid for with lottery and government funding secured by the Friends of Raphael and Lodge Farm Parks.
“We’re truly delighted with the park’s refurbishment,” said chairman Julia Herold.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our volunteers’ efforts in the run-up to Raphael Park winning the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Environment Agency, Veolia Trust and Havering Council.”
It was Julia who hit on the idea of asking Nick to unveil the new-look park.
“We’re very grateful to Nick and his lovely wife Annette for coming along,” she said. “I remember the Sunday morning I called Nick, feeling apprehensive, to ask if he would like to come along to our first fun day.
“Nick and Annette lived in Gidea Park and it was their nephew Charlie Fancourt, a friend of mine, who said: ‘You must speak to my uncle.’
“I couldn’t believe it was Nick Butterworth – I used to read the books to my children.
“From that day on, Nick has been a great supporter of the Friends of Raphael and Lodge Farm Parks. Nick and Annette have joined us at every one of our annual events in the park, only too happy to sit in the cold, wind, rain and – on most occasions – sunshine.
“Percy is a great mascot for not just our park but for all parks and we sincerely hope the children and parents who read these books will empathise.”
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