London is, in some ways, a remarkably green city. Of all its parks and gardens, I would happily contend that one of the loveliest of all these urban green spaces is Richmond Park, which sprawls over the top of a hill on the outskirts of south-west London.
On a clear day, the views from the Park are spectacular; it is possible to see all the way across London as far as St Paul’s Cathedral and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf – indeed, some of these views are protected by law. You can sit and peacefully marvel at the cityscape while still feeling you’re nowhere near the urban sprawl.
It’s not really surprising, therefore, that many people have chosen Richmond Park as the place to site benches dedicated as memorials to dear departed friends and relatives – and on a recent visit, we spotted a very unusual example of such a memorial bench.
At first glance, this one looks much like any other bench, but when you read the carved inscription you soon realise that this is actually a unique bench, dedicated to the memory of a unique man. This, of course, is Ian Dury’s memorial bench – because Richmond Park was one of his very own Reasons to be Cheerful.
Sited in Poet’s Corner, which commands one of the most dramatic views in the whole of the Park, Dury’s bench was dedicated in 2002, two years after his untimely death. And it is unique because it is fitted with small solar panels which originally powered a music player containing eight of Dury’s most famous songs and an interview with the man himself.
Sadly, repeated vandalism has meant that the music player has been removed, but the solar panels and the inscription remain. I still think it was a lovely idea and a very suitable tribute to a man whose music continues to resonate with so many, as his daughter Jemima explains:
Dad used to visit the park a few times a week over a period of years and it was very special to him, he loved it. It was one of the places where he felt he could go without being spotted all the time. There were two things, amongst others, he was very passionate about – getting out into the countryside and the availability of music. He would have loved the idea of a bench where people could listen to his songs and enjoy the view.