Park it here say Friends

MONDAY JULY 23 PARK TWO PAGER - Park l-r Neil Bradford, Val Bradford, , Neville Brown, back Coun Tony Williams and Paul Galley
MONDAY JULY 23 PARK TWO PAGER - Park l-r Neil Bradford, Val Bradford, , Neville Brown, back Coun Tony Williams and Paul Galley

Love parks? Then adopt one. The days have gone when parks were run wholly by councils and patrolled by “parkies” alone.

Today, in order for any community area to not just survive, but thrive, Joe Public has to play a far greater role.

And what can be achieved is shown by the success of several local recreation grounds – where friends groups have flourished.

Today residents are being encouraged to celebrate national Love Parks week.

In Wyre, there are themed activities to involve residents – from bugs and beasties quests at Thornton’s Hawthorne Park and summer planting at Poulton’s Vicarage Park on Wednesday, to events at Wyre Estuary Park, Thornton, on Thursday and Sunday.

Across the Fylde, new friends groups are springing up. One relative newcomer covers Jean Stansfield Park and Vicarage Park at Poulton.

Campaigners across the Fylde hope the theme week will be the impetus for more.

The Friends of Anchorsholme Park is the latest group to grasp the nettle.

Inspired by the success of near neighbour East Pines Park, where locals have rallied and run fund-raising events to improve public amenities, ward councillors Tony Williams and Paul Galley have looked further afield.

Anchorsholme Park is one of the biggest in Blackpool.

Local Brownies, under the leadership of Guider Val Bradford, have already got stuck in, planting out a boat which has languished, unloved, for some time.

Residents, tired of the lack of colour amidst the mature seaside-friendly palms, shrubs and towering thistles, have mucked in, providing plants to help add more variety.

Having enhanced the park, the friends are now looking at a far bigger picture, such as the restoration of an area once used for trampolines.

The new group meets at 7.30pm on the second Wednesday of every month, at the park’s bowls club base. It is clear members are out to stay the course.

“What’s happened at East Pines, where the park is now at the heart of the community, shows what can be achieved here – although it’s a much taller order,” says Coun Galley. “We can see signs of improvement, and a real commitment to making a difference here.”

Supporters include representatives of various groups which already use the park.

It’s good news for park cafe chief Neville, Brown who admits some days he’s lucky to serve a cup of coffee.

He adds: “The park is still well used, and the cafe is a meeting place for regulars, but there are some days I’m lucky to get one customer through the door. Especially this summer, as the weather has been so atrocious.”

Local resident Alison Wadsworth would welcome more information on the history of the park. “I think it was Cleveleys Hydroland originally, but we don’t know much about it.” She’s lived locally since 1946. “It was always lovely to come here, but it’s a bit neglected now, and not as busy.”

Val, assisted by husband Neil, is hoping to source grant aid for specialist sports and allied facilities. “We’ve concentrated on plants, but really we need to encourage the youngsters back here, the smaller and older children as well as adults. We’d love to get a zip wire, and perhaps a skateboard park.”

The playground facilities are pretty good, but Val adds: “It would be great to make it multi-generational. Some parks have specialist fitness equipment for older people.”

Further afield, one community group has blazed the trail. Lytham’s ParkView4U won praise from Prime Minister David Cameron after the community rallied to transform boggy wasteland into one of the best parks in the country.

The ParkView4U community group won a Big Society award for the achievement.

Mr Cameron hailed it as “an excellent example of people seeing something they want to change in their area, and taking action to make things happen.”

In eight years, the group has transformed the old recreation ground into a proper park, with community centre, cafe, play areas including tai chi for older people, skate park, BMX track, amphitheatre and nature trail.

To date, £1m has been raised by the group to improve the park after direct lobbying led Fylde Council to allocate £70k in match funding to drain the fields.

ParkView4U stalwart Cath Powell concludes: “We set out to provide a few new swings for our local park. In the years since we haven’t only built an amazing three-generational park, we have built a new, friendlier community.”