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Putting volunteers at the heart of parks

14 February 2013

Today BIG is pleased to announce more than £400,000 funding for GreenSpace UK’s ‘Love Parks’ project, which will train a network of volunteers across England to conserve and protect local green spaces. 

Parks and green spaces bring a wealth of benefits to our everyday lives but because they’ve always been there, it can be easy to take them for granted. In this guest blog, GreenSpace UK‘s Kelly Caufield explains how even with minimal incomes, limited tools and equipment, community groups have the skills and dedication to enhance their local parks.

Kelly Caufield

GreenSpace UK’s Kelly Caufield

The Friends of Walkden Gardens in Trafford formed in 2002. They work closely with the on-site gardener employed by Trafford Council and are lucky enough to have two professional landscape artists amongst the group of 24 volunteers.

Over the years they have worked on the construction of a Japanese garden and the building of a dry stone wall in the Dovecote Garden. Their largest project to date is the reclamation of a derelict area which will become Miss Cordingley’s Garden.

The Friends group also has a dedicated events committee which functions to make the public more aware of this hidden gem. Regular theatrical and musical events have been organised on the Theatre Lawn and every Christmas a carol concert around the Dovecote involves local primary schools and draws a large crowd.

Equally as active are the Friends of Mercer Park. Formed in 1999 and working closely with Hyndburn Borough Council, they have developed a large year-round programme of community events and activities. Their annual event ‘Lark in the Park’ pulls the whole community together with a wide variety goings-on; from a carnival procession and live music to a dog show and bowling tournament.

The success of this large event has led to numerous community groups holding smaller events throughout the year, ensuring a constant buzz within the park. The group’s latest achievement has been the incorporation of a Gaudi-inspired sensory garden within Mercer Park.

It has taken 10 years to come to fruition but the group has embedded the local community within its future, with local school children creating a central mosaic and local residents involved with planting and on-going maintenance.

Acknowledging and nurturing the volunteer movement, the Love Parks project will work to promote this incredible commitment of local people.

It will support a strong and existing Community Network whilst also encouraging more people to get involved, ensuring continual growth among groups and helping beat fears of decreasing volunteer numbers.

The Friends of Walkden Gardens celebrate their Green Flag Award

The Friends of Walkden Gardens celebrate their Green Flag Award

Training, resources and networking will empower communities to become confident local champions at the heart of local green space, helping to minimise the imminent threat to parks and green spaces and creating a people movement for parks.

Today marks the start of our Love Parks Week campaign, which aims to raise awareness of parks by encouraging people to organise and attend events during the first week of the summer holidays (27 July – 4 August 2013).

Last year the campaign saw 1.4 million people enjoying over 1,200 events across the week; showcasing a vast range of park activities and the benefit of quality, local green space.

For more information and to see how you can get involved, visit: www.loveparksweek.org.uk

Kelly Caufield is Marketing and Communications Manager at GreenSpace UK

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