Park volunteers leave town a green legacy

MORPETH’S long-serving park volunteer group has disbanded – but a new forum will rise from the ashes.

The Friends of Carlisle Park have called it a day after 11 years’ service because they were unable to form a new committee.

Members were keen to stay involved in the upkeep and enhancement of the park, but no one could be found to take over administration positions, such as Chairman, Secretary or Treasurer.

And when the existing committee stepped down at the annual general meeting last week, the group formally folded.

Northumberland County Council Green Spaces Officer Emma Evans, who manages the park, said: “The Friends have done amazing things in the park.

“They have raised over £100,000 towards park improvements and cultural events, and they have been a really brilliant support for the park during all the time they have been going.

“I would like to say thank you to them for all the support they have given over the past 11 or 12 years. Without them, we couldn’t have done a lot of the things we have, like going for the Green Flag. They have been a lovely bunch of people to work with.”

The group was formed after the park secured Heritage Lottery Funding in 1999, starting work the following year. It wasn’t until 2004 when the Friends were formally constituted.

Members raised more than £100,000 through grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the former Castle Morpeth Council and the Co-operative, as well as from book and leaflet sales.

The funding was used for events for the 500th birthday celebrations of Father of Botany William Turner, buying bat detectors and moth traps, and securing the facsimile copy of Turner’s A New Herball, as well as improvements to the formal gardens and the creation of the butterfly garden.

The group published two books about William Turner and Carlisle Park at 80 and hosted various events, including the park’s 80th anniversary celebrations, Go Wild In The Park and moth nights.

Recently, members were working on developing a fern garden, which will be carried on by park staff.

During the Friends’ involvement, the park has won seven Green Flag awards, 10 Enjoy England Tourism Accreditation awards and numerous Royal Horticultural Society Bloom awards.

With their remaining funds, a new bench will be created to formally recognise the Friends’ contribution. It will be crafted by carpenter Mark Talbot from an oak that was felled in the park a few years ago and will feature engravings associated with Morpeth and William Turner, such as a dipper, the Chantry and herb Paris.

Staff are eager that community involvement should remain at the heart of the park and are already drawing up plans for a new forum.

Mrs Evans said: “It is sad that the Friends group has gone, but this is a good opportunity to set up a park users’ forum and we are hoping to attract a much wider range of park users.

“We would like people involved from the bits of the park that have never really been represented before, such as people who use the play area and the skatepark, or dog walkers, just to find out a bit more information about what people want in the park.

“We don’t want to lose the community involvement. It is a park for everybody, not just for us to run.

“If anybody wants to tell us something about the park, or come forward with ideas for improvements, the forum is there. We can’t promise that everything they want will be done straight away, but it will give us an idea of what people want to see in the park.

“A lot of the Friends will still be involved in the user forum, but it means they can step back from the committee responsibilities.”

There will also be a monthly volunteer day in the park on the last Tuesday of each month, beginning in March.

“Volunteers will be able to work alongside the gardeners and they will have project areas,” said Mrs Evans.

“There will be a proper programme that will go on our website and their help will support things like Northumbria In Bloom, Britain In Bloom, the Green Flag and the Enjoy England awards.”

She added: “It is going back to basics.”

It is hoped that the forum will also come up with ideas for new activities in the park to provide a packed events programme.

The first meeting will be held in the Bowling Pavilion on Saturday, March 10, at 10am. Refreshments will be provided.

For more information, contact Mrs Evans on 01670 535203, email or visit www.northum