About Oakley Park. Situated in Fleet, just a few minutes' walk from the high street and station, Oakley Park covers five acres and consists of two distinct areas.
Open space. Two acres of Oakley Park is open space with leisure facilities including a standard- and children’s-size football pitch, picnic benches, a kick wall, basketball hoop, tyre swing, climbing boulder, flymobile and an enclosed children’s play area.
The park is well maintained, fully enclosed and the pathways around the large, open space are accessible. It is a pleasant place to spend some time, where the children can play while you relax and chat with friends. At the weekend you can watch the Fleet Town [Colts] and Fleet Town [Girls & Ladies FC] play football.
The open area has two CCTV cameras managed by the Council and the local police occasionally drop by to make sure the park is safe.
The Woodland. Oakley Park’s three-acre woodland is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). Comprising native woodland, this area is teaming with a diverse wildlife including a protected species of bats and a variety of birds, [list of bird types]] reptiles, foxes and squirrels. There is also a small pond with a dipping platform and a number of streams which flow through the park and woodland to eventually feed into Fleet Pond. [more about pond dipping]
Every local authority in England has a system for identifying local sites which are of substantive nature conservation value. In Hampshire these are called Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs). This helps in conserving important and distinctive habitats and species on sites that fall outside of European or national conservation designations such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). SINC’s can vary in size from a small pond or woodland to an open expanse of grassland or heathland.
Sites can be linear such as road verges or streams. They include privately owned areas and land owned by local authorities, parish councils, charities or organisations such as the Forestry Commission or Ministry of Defence. [website]
History. Oakley Park has quite a history. The open space area was originally donated to the people of Fleet by James Oakley, a wealthy land owner and businessman who owned a shop on the junction of Fleet Road and Upper Street (now the site of the Emporium pub). In today's terms, the shop would have been classified as a large department store, being over 100 feet wide and 60 feet deep.
The store sold everything, from groceries, bicycles, clothing, fabric to furniture and even incorporated an off-licence and a funeral parlour. Upon his death in 1920, James Oakley bequeathed the land known as Oakley Park to the community.
Research undertaken by the late Chris Hall found that, in 1870, the Oakley area was still heathland with a scattering of pine trees and a stream leading to Fleet Pond. The land belonged to a Mr Thomas Keep, who had owned it since 1840. It was sold by public auction in June 1878 for £4,750. The block of land was 248 acres and included everything bounded by Fleet Road, Reading Road, Basingstoke Canal and Pondtail.
It was described at the time as being 'an unbroken stretch of heathland, little more than a bog where frogs croaked night and day. This would have been the now very rare natterjack toad which survived in Fleet until at least 1922.
Oakley Park woods once contained two orchards, a tennis court and a small pond which had a small rowing boat moored there.
The Shrimpton family sold the land in 1947 and it remained in private ownership until 1972 when Hart District Council purchased the land for the sum of £195,000: Eden Developments, which built the George Road estate wanted to buy the woodland area for further development but their application was refused by the council who, thus, became obliged to purchase the land themselves.
The woodland area is now a nature reserve which has now been integrated into Oakley Park as a whole. An extract from the Deed of Gift, the original of which is still held by the council, reads: 'Unto and to the use of the council in fee simple to be used for ever hereafter as a public park and recreation ground for the inhabitants of Fleet and neighbourhood thereof and the public generally under the control and management of the council. Dated 25th February, 1920'.
The park is held in trust by the council for the benefit and enjoyment of the local community and cannot be used for any other purpose than its present use. In April 2010, the newly formed Fleet Town Parish Council took over responsibility for the management of Oakley Park and the SINC area.