Blackpool's Stanley Park celebrates again being crowned best in UK
What a glorious double achievement for Blackpool's Stanley Park.
It has been named best in the UK for a second time - and no wonder the Friends of Stanley Park volunteers, park management and staff were in party mood as they watched the announcement being made live on social media.
A record 364 nominations were received for the UK Best Park 2019 by the green space charity Fields in Trust, with an unprecedented total of 36,832 votes were cast by the public for parks and green spaces across the UK.
After earlier being named the best in England, Stanley Park triumphed over Pittencrieff Park, in Dunfermline, Scotland; Antrim Castle Gardens in Northern Ireland and Cyfarthfa Park in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales to take the coveted UK honour, which it previously won in 2017.
Stanley Park's nomination described it as "a beautiful tranquil place away from the hustle and bustle of the Blackpool seafront" and recognised the key contribution of the "great volunteers and staff who keep it in tip top condition".
As a huge cheer went up went up when the UK honour was confirmed, no-one was more delighted than Elaine Smith, long-serving chairman of the Friends of Stanley Park.
She said: "It is a wonderful park, we know it's the best but now everyone else does too.
"All this is down to work done by the park staff, the gardeners, the concessionaires, by the Friends of Stanley Park, the volunteers, everyone has had to work together to do this.
"We can't believe how thrilled we are."
Coun Maria Kirkland, Blackpool Council's cabinet member responsible for leisure, said: “We are so delighted that Stanley Park has been voted by the public as the UK’s Best Park.
"Stanley Park is always celebrated as the jewel in Blackpool’s crown, with a variety of attractions including scenic walks, beautiful gardens and sporting activities for all.
“We are so proud of the effort that goes into keeping it clean, vibrant and somewhere for everyone to enjoy all year round.
“A massive thank you goes to the fantastic parks team who work so tirelessly to ensure that it is a magnificent park. They are truly passionate about what they do and this prestigious award reflects those efforts.
"Thanks also goes to the Friends of Stanley Park and all volunteers who contribute their time to keeping this fabulous open space so wonderful.”
The council's parks operational manager Diane Farley added: "I am so pleased and so proud to be involved with everyone here at Stanley Park.
"It's a fantastic job I have dealing with all the volunteers and all the hard working staff."
Stanley Park boasts almost 300 acres of recreational space, with it's formal gardens, lake, conservation area, golf course, sports arena, bowling greens, playgrounds, BMX track plus its iconic family-run Art Deco Cafe.
The bandstand, which celebrated its 90th anniversary this year, has become a mecca for music on summer Sunday afternoons with free performances, featuring all types of music, hosted by the Friends of Stanley Park.
Bev Carroll, who has been visiting the park since she was brought there in her pram as a baby and is now a heritage guide, said: "When we look back at the history of Stanley Park, the designer's intention was to provide a park that had something for everybody and now when we look around the park we see how his intentions have come to fruition.
"I am very proud of my park not just because I am a local but because of what it provides for visitors as well."
Fields in Trust has, for more than 90 years, legally protected parks and green spaces ensuring they will always be available for future generations to enjoy.
The charity is concerned that many parks and green spaces are under threat and are at risk of being lost to development or a cycle of decline and disappearance.
The UK's Best Park award recognises the role parks play in local communities, supporting mental and physical health and providing space for communities to connect.
Stanley Park was officially opened on October 22, 1926 by the 17th Earl of Derby and Sir George Edward Villiers Stanley, in whose honour it was named.
It was designed by renowned architects Thomas Mawson and Sons and has been grade II* listed since 1995.
The design of the park radiates from the circular Italian garden at the centre, which features a fountain surrounded by flower beds.
The Clock Tower, a memorial to Blackpool’s first Mayor, Dr William Cocker, is to the south of the central fountain.
The tower is sometimes open during special events such as Heritage Open Days, the latest of which falls next Friday, September 20, when it will be open from 2pm to 4pm