The story of Golden Hill Country Park
Pre- Military use
In 1299 there is a reference to “Gauldane” in the Royal Survey derived from ‘gafol (payment, tax) and ‘dun’ (hill, hill country). The next mention we have found is in 1608, “Gaudon Common” again in the Royal Survey and referring to common land for sheep, collecting timber and with a brick works.
Arrival of the Military
Poor downland and rough gorse was brought by military between 1861 and 1863 from Baron Heytesbury, Benjamin Cotton, Frederick Merwood, Joseph Stark and Sir A Hammond.
The site was occupied by the military between 1863 and 1960.
The land surrounding the fort was cleared to allow “uninterrupted and free field of fire for some distance”. So much of the trees that you see today have grown up since after the Second World War.
After the soldiers
In 1962 the Army relinquished site and it was sold in 1964. The Fort became an industrial estate and had attractions including a pub.
The Country Park
In 1968 Freshwater Parish Council give £750 to start Country Park. The next year there was tree planting by community and local dignitaries (we have lists of people and trees) – many trees didn’t survive. It was also part of AA ‘Plant A Tree’ Scheme (£1).
In 1970 the Country Park was established – Mr H Chandler ws Chair of Golden Hill Park Committee (Caroline Dudley’s grandfather) we have loads of press cuttings scanned. The Park was opened by Lord Mountbatten who planted more trees including a copper beech tree from his nursery to mark the occasion. Look out for this near our community orchard. A cairn was erected to celebrate the event.
In the early 1970s there was an extensive fire on south slope of the Country Park – the remediation created grassland heath. Two pipelines across the east side of the site created further disturbance in the 1980s because of the use of inappropriate infill. These events actually contributed to the varied flora found on the site today.