Park and river
Prior to the modern open plan park, the manor was home to a stately 17th century park with a formal structure. It was a 9-squared regular park, which consisted of a pleasure garden, a vegetable garden, two hop gardens and four fish ponds. The gardens were surrounded by bushes of lilac, gooseberry and currants – as well as apple, cherry and damson trees – not to mention the numerous rose bushes. In 2007, an archaeological excavation revealed a slate enclosure wall of the old baroque park.
Later, an open plan park was established in River island, with sets of trees and bushes that alternated between meadows, while the ponds, canals, peninsulas and islands created their own unique structure. In 1959, the park was put under national conservation protection. In the 1990s, the park was returned to its legitimate owner and is now a private property. Since 2008, Keila City Governement has been doing regular conservation work in the park. This work involves cutting the bushes and opening up the panorama whilst following the maintenance programmes and ecological restoration project – funded by the Environmental Investment Centre. The left waterway and its swimming spots became completely dry during the land reclamation works in the 1960s, but the flow of water was re-established again in 2012.
The clearing of the left waterway and organisation of the park´s landscape has led to a huge improvement in the living conditions of the manor´s bats. River island´s warm August evenings often attract visitors such as the northern bat, Daubenton´s bat, common noctule and Nathusius’ pipistrelle.
River Island was a popular holiday destination during the 1920s and 1930s and attracted visitors due to its good train connections, even from the capital region. Next to the bridge leading to River Island was a shallow-watered swimming spot called ‘Saaruke’ (A small island in Estonian), perfect for children to swim around. It was situated exactly where the two waterways met. In the past, it was a favourite swimming spot for young ladies from the manor. The official and well-kept swimming spot was called ‘Red Lobster’. The only thing that has survived from its glory days are the stone steps, which were used to jump into the water. A bit further on was a slightly wider and deeper place known as ‘Paradise’, which also hosted swimming competitions. Next to that one could find ‘Carriage hole’, which is located south of the park and remains a deep, round-shaped divergence of the two waterways. This particular spot was visited only by the biggest dare-devils as it did not have a safe place to go into the water.
The legend surrounding the ‘Carriage hole’ says that next to Keila, in a village called Tuula, lived an evil manor owner who the locals disliked and wished to get rid of. Once, when the gentleman in question visited Keila, his coachman led the horsed-drawn carriage into the river, drowning them all. It is now said that ‘Carriage hole’ owes its curved shoreline to the carriage wheel that rammed into the land when it was driven into the river. There is another swimming spot called ‘Ostrovka’ (‘A small island’ in Russian) to the East of River Island, by the right waterway. The name is likely to come from land reclamation works during the Soviet times when a small island was created as a result of the works. It now lies between the historic watercourse and the new artificial stream.
´Ostrovka´ is now the most popular swimming spot in the area. However, swimmers also like to use the area near the pedestrian bridge in the north side of the park. The most popular spots among fishermen are now close to the old ‘Carriage hole’ swimming spot. Lobster has been a popular catch in these waters in the 1930s and between 1950s and 60s.