About the Friends.  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 and we are 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, to 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 programme of events typically includes a summer fete, an Easter egg hunt, a children's fun run, a teddy bears’ picnic, and a few more unusual and instructive events including bush craft skills and pond dipping.

Meet the Committee.   Lynsey (Committee Member) I have lived in Fleet for 13 years. I joined the committee in 2015 – my aim was to ensure that the park and woodland continued to be well looked after. Fleet has a great community spirit and I love helping organise events that bring the community together.

Jane (Committee Member) I have lived in Fleet for 7 years and work as a nurse locally. I joined the committee in 2016 after moving to a house backing onto the park. I have always loved Oakley Park and spent many hours in the play park, woodland and sports pitches with my family and friends. My aim is to organise events and bring the community together within our park.

Gillian (Secretary) I have lived in Fleet for 14 years and I work as a medical communications project manager in Farnham. I have the role of secretary, having only just joined the committee (January 2018). Oakley Park has always been a favourite place of mine but it came to mean even more to me when it played an important role in my recovery after an operation. I love the way it draws the community to it and like nothing better than sitting on a bench in the sunshine and watching people enjoying the park.

Clair and Ryan (Committee Members) We joined the committee in 2017 after moving next to Oakley Park. We would like to continue to keep the park a community space for all to enjoy.

Mike (Chairman) I am a retired, international sales executive and have lived in Fleet for more than 40 years, joining FOP in September 2009 and being appointed Chairman in January 2014. My children, their cousins and now our grandchildren have enjoyed all aspects of the park and I wish to ensure this excellent small park continues to offer a safe, adventurous and rewarding environment for future generations.

Ron (Treasurer) I first moved to Fleet in 1982 and then to opposite the park in 1996. I became a committee member in 1998 and have fulfilled various roles since that time, taking over as treasurer in 2013. I am pleased to have been involved with the considerable improvements to the facilities for visitors and wildlife habitat over that period.

Antony (Committee Member) I came along to my first FOP committee meeting in November 2013. I was particularly interested in activities which encouraged children to use the park. In 2014 I suggested organising a 2k children’s fun run, thinking perhaps only a handful of children might attend, but this has been hugely successful with more than 100 entrants now taking part.

Our History – Memoirs of Stewart Knowles, Chairman of the Friends of Oakley Park, 1991–99.   "There are moments, dew and sun-soaked mornings, when I can scarce believe it. Oakley Park is at its 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.

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. 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.

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.

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. We stage a variety of events, which are free, for example – a teddy bears’ picnic, a children’s fun run, an Easter egg 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, five picnic benches, a pond interpretation board, climbing boulder, a flymobile, renovated the swings and a new plaque in honour of James Oakley. The park area is always a pleasant 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.