The Friends of Court Hey Park – whose project to improve their local community space completed earlier this month – tell how their work has made a difference. Thanks to group chair Rita Walker and facilitator Dave Hammond for the article.
Court Hey Park, on the border of Liverpool and Knowsley, is one of Knowsley’s best-loved parks. Its 14 hectares contain the National Wildflower Centre and, until the 1950s, a mansion house owned by Robertson Gladstone, elder brother of Prime Minister William Gladstone. It has a fine selection of mature trees, a bowling green, cricket pitch and play area, topped off with a Green Flag Award.
Another of the park’s great assets is a Friends group dedicated to improving the park and encouraging an appreciation of its history. Earlier this year they organised a theatre event in the park telling the story of the mansion house, based on a book by one of the Friends, Dave Roberts.
How do you improve a park like this?
One way is to make sure that people know that it’s there and can walk round in all weathers without getting muddy!
Some of the paths in the park were unsurfaced and turned to mud in the winter. A key entrance was hidden away so that you could walk past without knowing a park existed and there was a wicked chicane to get past. The problems this caused became obvious when one of the Friends started using a mobility scooter and could no longer get into the park using that entrance.
A £49,999 Community Spaces grant paid for new paths, new entrances and signage that will help more people get in and enjoy the park. It will enable local residents to walk across the park to school, even in winter, and creates a circular walk for all visitors to enjoy.
An activity and celebration event on September 14 saw children from three local primary schools helping to put the finishing touches to the project, planting hundreds of wildflowers in the park with staff from the National Wildflower Centre and Knowsley Ranger Service. Their hard work was rewarded with an afternoon of fun activities. Knowsley’s Mayor, Coun Christine O’Hare, declared the new paths and other improvements officially open.
Rita Walker, Chair of the Friends of Court Hey Park, says: “The Launch was a great success with the children enjoying the planting in the morning, they collected loads of conkers too which added to their pleasure. My thanks to Jan Pell and her team from The Wildflower Centre for organising it so successfully.
“The afternoon was enjoyed by the children all getting a turn at the various activities: card making, face painting (teachers too), circus skills and storytelling. The event ended with refreshments and congratulations from the teachers for a great day.
“The Friends are delighted with the improvements to the park. I have enjoyed talking to park users to get their reaction; everyone is very pleased with the improvements. Many thanks from The Friends of Court Hey Park to Community Spaces for giving us the opportunity to make improvements so sorely needed. It has made everything worthwhile for us.”
You can follow the Friends on their website www.courtheypark.co.uk