Parks: our nation’s greatest invention?

Bournemouth parkDid you know that public parks were one of the very first public services, introduced to improve air quality, health and well-being for people in Victorian Britain’s growing cities?

For me, they are our nation’s greatest invention.

I love to join in the Parkrun in Kings Park, do a spot of people watching in the Lower Gardens or spend some time with my family in one of the many fantastic nature reserves we’re lucky enough to have in Bournemouth and beyond.  Preserving our wildlife and heritage is really important, but just as important is to create the heritage of tomorrow and to allow wildlife back into our towns and cities.

Spring really is on the way now; look out and you’ll start to notice purple or yellow crocuses in flower along our verges, and perhaps even some frogspawn in ponds. Just like the birds, insects and flowers, our staff throughout parks, gardens, nature reserves and cemeteries are busy preparing for the peak of parks activity in spring and summer.

Parks team at work

Most of our grass cutters and gardeners start early and finish early in a bid to be out of your way by the time you really want to get out into the park.

Right now, they’re out clearing litter by 7.30am, although come the height of summer many staff will be busy in our parks well before 7am.

Park CafesThinking about the amount of litter we collect every day, we support the global movement to eliminate plastic waste. Park Cafés – our in-house café company – have now moved over to completely recyclable and biodegradable take away packaging. The idea of our Park Cafés is that all the profits get reinvested into our green spaces as, in the current climate of austerity, we need to ensure that we do as much as we can to keep parks open and free for everyone to enjoy.

We’ve also started to install ‘Big Belly Solar Bins’ that automatically compact litter and close up to prevent waste being blown across our green spaces.  Better still, many of our nature reserves have no bins, so that waste can be taken home, sorted and recycled.

The next couple of months are our last chance to complete our tree planting programme for the year.  We have over 500,000 trees to maintain, and whilst our woodlands often generate their own replacements, street and park trees need a great deal of care and attention to establish, with only one in ten planted growing through to maturity.  If you’re thinking about planting at home, our plant nursery at Kings Park opens for 2018 on Good Friday, whilst Cherry Tree Nursery in Northbourne also supply great plants, year-round, as part of a charitable social enterprise project.

Flowerbed in bloomThis coming year our town has been invited to compete nationally at Britain In Bloom. The Parks Service will be supporting our local ‘In Bloom’ groups and the Bournemouth ‘In Bloom’ volunteers as they aim to win gold again.  We’ll be putting forward Muscliff Park for a Green Flag Award, to add to our existing eighteen Green Flag sites.  We’re making plans to replace the ageing art exhibition within the Lower Gardens to encourage more local produce, arts and crafts being sold in this space and help regenerate Westover Road.  In late spring we’ll be re-opening Redhill Bowls Pavilion as Redhill Fox café; and the old bowling green will become a tranquil nature garden.

Bournemouth Parks FoundationA couple of years ago, we worked with the Heritage Lottery Fund to create the Bournemouth Parks Foundation to help us meet the demands of funding beautiful parks, gardens and open spaces.  The Foundation is a charity and independent from the Council, with a board of local trustees. It collects donations and legacies towards park improvement projects and applies for grants towards them too – often acquiring funding not accessible to the Council.

Spend three minutes watching this short video from the Foundation:

Immense Night of ComedyIf you’d like to support the Foundation a little more – and have fun doing it – we’d love you to come along to ‘Another Immense Night of Comedy’ at the Shelley Theatre on Saturday 17 February in association with Coastal Comedy and with canapes provided by Urban Reef.

We hope to see you there!


Michael Rowland

Parks Development Manager

About Michael Rowland

Michael is Parks Development Manager for Bournemouth Borough Council
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