Parks and open spaces throughout the country are under serious threat. So please consider adding your voice to a national petition to “Save our Parks”. The National Federation of Parks and Open Paces are collecting signatures for a petition calling on the Government to protect and invest in the country’s public green spaces.
The petition calls upon the next Government, in 2015, to:
-hold a public inquiry into the funding and management of the UK’s green spaces
-bring in a statutory duty to monitor and manage these spaces to Green Flag Award standard
-ensure adequate public resources for all green spaces
At a local level, major cuts to Growth and Neighbourhoods budget are being considered which will have a big impact on the maintenance of parks and open spaces. The council are consulting on the latest budget options- have your say through the council website.
In our document “Towards a Development Plan” (2008) we noted that the lack of an area where children could play. A playground had been built next to Denmark Road in the 1950’s but removed following persistent vandalism. We observed that a new play-space designed to incorporate the features of the Park rather than be separated behind a fence would be our preference, but that children should be involved in the design through consultation and workshops. In the difficult financial climate we thought this to be a long term project, but the city benefited from the Government’s Playbuilder Project and in 2010 we were asked to help in its design. The Council’s Children Department organised a series of events at which schoolchildren were able to state their preferences from illustrations and examples of available installations and their choices informed the selection for the Park. Our preference for a site within the trees near to the mounded part of the Park was accepted and in the middle of the difficult winter of 2010 with snow all around, the equipment was set out and the idea was brought to fruition. It has been a great success and is one of the attractions of the Park.
When the group was started in 2005 we found that there was no plan for the development of the Park. So after discussion with the then Park Manager, Kirsten Warren, we produced a document called “Towards a Development Plan” which set out in a number of “projects” an approach to repair and improve Whitworth Park. We took as a guide the criteria used by the Green Flag Awards judges – A welcoming place; Healthy, safe and secure; Well maintained and clean; Sustainability; Conservation and Heritage; Community Involvement; Marketing, and finally, Management. Kirsten thought this was a good start and we worked together to eventually produce a Management Plan in 2011 which guides work in the Park. This was the key to submission for an Award and in 2012 we were assessed independently and judged to have achieved the national standard for parks and green spaces. In 2013 the award was renewed without inspection and in 2014 renewed again after a visit by the judges on May Day. The written report is complimentary about the work of our group but says we “sell ourselves short” on what we have actually achieved! It is less so about grounds maintenance.
There are indications that the Council will reduce applications for Green Flag awards and instead introduce a “Manchester Standard” to measure quality against “criteria that are important to Manchester residents”. It is not clear which Green Flag criteria are not so.
One of the aims of the Friends from the start has been to find out more about the plants and creatures that live in the Park. Our September 2010 newsletter included a report on the Bio-Blitz carried out that year. It recorded that in June Henry McGhie, of the Museum, had organised a “BioBlitz” that turned up “at least fourteen species of birds, including various tits and finches, blackbird, magpie, wood pigeon, carrion crow, robin, mistle thrush, black headed gull, feral pigeon and great spotted woodpecker; three bats were spotted around trees in the centre of the Park; a wood mouse; bumblebees and 78 species of insects, beetles, moths, butterflies, bees, wasps, spiders, centipedes, snails and slugs”.
Since then we have started on our project to enhance the bio-diversity of the Park by using the reduced grass mowing regime to start a wildlife area and generally provide the opportunity for the spontaneous growth of wild flowers. In 2011 Manchester Museum led a spring event in the Park – Wonderful Whitworth Wildlife- which gave an opportunity to see how things were going and the naturalists this time recorded 86 species, including a good showing of “lady’s smock” in the wildlife area, and I later came across this cinnabar moth whilst working in the Park.
The range of plants and wildlife in the Park is increasing since the maintenance regime has been changed to reduce the amount of mowing (and therefore cost). However the grassland margins are not “managed” in a way that will encourage the development of wild flowers. We need guidance and support on this so that the routine work of grounds maintenance is consistent with the aim of the Management Plan.
Another objective is to work with schools and the Whitworth Art Gallery to make full educational and recreational use, and to audit and record changes in of the bio-diverse areas of the Park,