The Friends of Oakley Park is a not-for-profit community group run by volunteers.

All we do, can only happen with the help of our volunteers, local sponsorship and the community spirit of our members. We are the “community voice” in matters relating to the park. Funded by members subscriptions, donations from local businesses, grants and fund raising events.

Set up in 1989 by residents concerned about the lack of investment in Oakley Park.

Our objectives as stated in our constitution are:

•To work towards maintaining and improving Oakley Park for the benefit of the local community in partnership with the local council.

•To promote the preservation and maintenance of Oakley Park woods and its use as a public amenity and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

As an organisation we encourage and support the work of Fleet Town Council, run events for the benefit of the community, encourage children's interest in learning about the natural world and maintain a permanent Orienteering Course.

Our program of events includes: an Easter Egg Hunt, a Tree Shake, a Fungi Foray, a Bring & Buy Plant and Cake Sale, Children's Fun Run and a few more unusual and instructive events including Bush Craft skills and Pond Dipping.

Our History

Memoirs of Stewart Knowles, Chairman of The Friends of Oakley Park, 1991-99.

Quote "There are moments, dew and sun-soaked mornings, when I can scarce believe it. Oakley Park is at it's shining best. There is little or no litter to be seen, no morning-after signs of evening drinking sessions by the 'homework? What homework?' brigade.

Trees planted yesterday are strong and tall. The grass is green, even patches made bare by the studs of football boots have been re-seeded and this freshly-laid colour-soaked carpet fairly glows.

I remember, though vaguely now, what it was like ten years ago. A dump? Too merciful a word. It was an eyesore. And the adjoining woodland was to many, a no-go area which featured an unsavoury ditch that once, rumour claimed, has been a pond.

Big Changes

The park's transformation started with an announcement in the local papers followed by a public meeting held one Autumn evening in 1989 to discuss the possibility of improving Oakley Park. By that time the park was hopelessly run down and so something had to be done.

To the surprise of many the public meeting was well attended. Close on 100 people came to the Catholic Church Hall in Connaught Road where Ann Hollis, then living in Fleet, outlined the idea for 'The Friends of Oakley Park' to be formed.

At a meeting held in the home of Nick Heath, on Monday September 16th 1989, Ann became the 'Friends' first chairman with Sharon Clucas and Nevenka Thornton, respectively, secretary and treasurer. Serving with them on that first committee were Sue Abbot, Tess Reid, Nick Heath, Vic Makepeace and myself, my wife having suggested, at that first public meeting, that I volunteer. One of the committee's first decisions was to have an 'Action Day' on Sunday, October 15th 1989 to clean the park of rubbish.

The first £100,

Within a year our treasurer - Nevenka Thornton - was able to report a bank balance of £100 from subscriptions. We had bought and provided a picnic bench for the park and held our first cheese and wine evening which made a profit of £120.

At our first AGM - on October 8th 1990 - Ann Hollins announced she was moving with her family to Winchfield and Nevenka took over as chairman with Chris Wiltshire replacing her as treasurer. By now the committee was discussing any number of issues that ranged from litter and dog mess to an idea for a cricket match against a similar group being formed at Basingbourne. The match has yet to take place!

Our second AGM - on October 2nd 1991 - was something of a disaster. We had booked the United Reformed Church Hall only to discover, at the last minute, that alcohol as not allowed and the resulting attendance was pitiful. Even so, we had grown in strength with an active committee of nine members.

After serving a year as chairman Nevenka opted to stand down to become secretary. I took over as chairman and by this time an idea that started life as a mere gleam - to restore the pond - was really taking shape. We had launched a quarterly Newsletter by now and in 1992 the spring edition was able to report: 'Well we made it. With a lot of help from our friends we have given Oakley Park its pond back after many, many years of neglect.

Heavy Duty

With the help of a party of Royal Engineers from Gibraltar Barracks, Minley, work on ground clearance had started that January and in February two men with a small mechanical digger spent three days digging out what would become the restored pond.

On July 18th we held a garden party to mark the 'official reopening' and drank Bucks Fizz with a special guest, Richard Watkinson, then 82, the grandson of James Oakley who gave the land to people of Fleet in 1920. We have since placed a plaque to his memory in the shrubbery at the park's Albany Road entrance, something else we were able to create.

Three years after we re-created the pond we decided to extend it slightly. The plan, suggested and supervised by Joe Mullen, was to remove one boggy area and incorporate a ditch that was separate from the main body of water. Without the aid of mechanical equipment some 20 volunteers pitched in and on Sunday October 29th 1995, the job was done and the pond even had its own drainage system.

We have grown and grown. At the combined cheese and wine evening and AGM in 1997 our membership stood at 200 and hasn't stopped there." Unquote

The Present Day

We like to think James Oakley would be happy with the way we have tried to care for and nurture his gift.

Shrubs, benches, picnic tables, play facilities for youngsters, including a basketball ring and climbing boulders are all, directly or indirectly, the result of our efforts and partnerships.

We have bid for and received grants from the National Lottery, Hampshire County Council, Hart District Council, Fleet Town Council, Fleet Lions, and Waitrose, the supermarket chain.

Private donations and sponsorship from local companies also support our efforts. The woodland area, now an established part of the park itself, is a pleasant place in which to stroll or give the family dog some exercise.

The Friends of Oakley Park seem to be regarded by the local Press as a good news source and this has been maintained, to a great extent by a series of regular activities throughout the year.

The annual Bring and Buy Plant and Cake Sale in May is very successful and a now a well established feature. We stage a variety of events, which are free, for example - a Teddy Bears' Picnic, a Children’s Fun Run, an Easter Egg Treasure Hunt and recently a Summer Fete, all which keep us in the public eye.

Thousands of bulbs, planted by volunteers over the years make the park a spring time delight .

More recently, we have added the Orienteering Course, pavilion garden, three picnic benches, a Pond Interpretation Board and a new plaque in honor of James Oakley. The park area is always a pleasent place to spend some time and thanks to the efforts of the Council’s Contractor it is well maintained but there is still much to do and many challenges to face.