Bishop Auckland in Bloom, the current holders of Northumbria in Bloom Best Large Town Category, have set out ambitious plans that will see the town’s Recreation Park transformed and go some way to helping the town retain their prestigious award.
The volunteer group is keen to give the residents of the town a beautiful park they can be proud of and one that can compete with neighbouring towns for colourful displays and imaginative and creative landscaping.
Local resident, Chris Percival said: “Back in the day, the park had its own park keeper who was permanently based on site in the bowling hut.
“He was responsible for locking the gates at night, as most parks still do nowadays, to deter late night anti-social behaviour and vandalism. There was even a dog warden who undertook foot patrol as well as taking enforcement action against dog fouling and litter.
“I can remember coming to listen to music being played in the bandstand, which was sadly uprooted and gifted to Beamish Museum. Interestingly, it now commands pride of place in Saltwell Park in Gateshead.”
The group is determined to see the park returned to its former glory and a place where people can enjoy visiting and playing in. With the support of Homebase and B&Q they planted thousands of daffodil bulbs in the park last year which are now popping up and bringing a splash of colour to the park.
Bishop Auckland in Bloom has a track record of transforming local areas such as the Horse Trough and the wooded area by Durham Chare – a project originally identified by local residents. With the support of Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone, this historic area has been transformed and is now an asset to the town which is enjoyed by local residents and tourists alike.
Last year the group successfully bid to the Woodland Trust for 420 sapling trees, which will provide all year round colour in the park when they mature. Because of Covid the trees were unable to be planted as planned but now with the end of lockdown in sight the saplings are now being planted in various sites around the park.
The ‘Bloomers’, as they are affectionately known, also recently secured £500 from the Royal Horticultural Society’s It’s Your Neighbourhood fund to support the reintroduction of colourful bedding displays in the park. Over the coming months they hope to secure more funds, sponsorship and donations to enable the park to grow and bloom for gold.
The group has also secured funding worth over £26,000 to help put their plans into action and are hoping for support and direction from local residents.
Durham County Council has also given a firm commitment to spending thousands of pounds to improve the highway leading to the entrance of the park which is currently in a bad state of repair.
The group will initially be focusing on the area to the rear of Etherley Lane Primary School with entrances to Hutchinson Street, Clarence Gardens and Nelson Street.
Cllr Joy Allen, who is Chair of the group said: “It is important that a town the size of Bishop Auckland has a park to be proud of and people can enjoy sitting in and walking through it.
“Having visited parks locally and across the region it struck me that our park was sadly lacking in colour and basic facilities such as seating and bins.
“It has taken some time for us to secure this significant pot of funding but I am absolutely delighted that we are now in a position to start turning these ideas into action with the help of local residents and interest groups.
“We are particularly keen to give the residents living in terraced accommodation with no gardens a wonderful green space on their doorstep they can enjoy all year round.
“After this challenging year everyone has heightened awareness of the importance the environment plays on our health and wellbeing and the importance of having access to beautiful communal spaces cannot be under estimated.
“We also hope the proposed improvements will encourage more parents to park in Morrisons and walk their children to school to avoid parking up in residential streets and that the children from the school will play an important role in the development and designs for the park.
“Over the years, in response to road safety concerns arising as a result of the daily school runs, the local primary school has encouraged parents to park in the supermarket car park and walk through the recreation park to the school gates in the park to ease congestion. We hope our plans will encourage more families to choose this option for their daily school run”
Nigel Bryson, Interim Co-ordinator of the Cultivate 4 Life project said: “As part of its Community Gardening Initiative, Cultivate 4 Life, which is based in Woodhouse Close, can help creating a clean and tidy park area.
“We have already done this in Tittybottle Park and the Amenities Park on Cockton Hill Road with other volunteers from the Baptist Church”.
A new Facebook Page called Friends of Bishop Auckland’s Parks has recently been set up by Harley Balmer-Howieson and Katie Eliot, who both administer the Bishop Auckland Area Covid-19 Community Support Group page, to enable residents to have a say, become friends of the park and get involved in these exciting developments.
Harley said: “We have started a group for residents of Bishop Auckland and those who visit our recreational grounds to facilitate discussion about keeping our parks clean and share ideas about how we can improve the beauty of our parks. The Friends will also be out to help Bishop Auckland in Bloom to once again secure Best Large Town in the Northumbria in Bloom Awards”.