By Katherine Turner
A GROUP of Wortley residents fighting to reinstate their park to its former glory have celebrated the first anniversary of the Friends of Western Flatts Park.
‘Friends of’ groups are made up of people who voluntarily work to maintain, improve and promote parks and green spaces.
Chair of the Friends of Western Flatts Cliff Park group, Neil Bonnington, said: “I wanted to get involved as I have used the park to walk my dogs over the years. I feel it has lost a lot of support from the council because of cost cutting.”
The group has seen its support increase over the year, with over 500 people following their Facebook group.
“It’s a great place to come and socialise, exercise and get some fresh air,” Neil said. “A lot of people use the park and it has suffered over the years compared to some others. It would be great if we could have some better facilities there so that children can use it. The playground is not really fit for purpose.”
The group hopes that money from Leeds City Council’s levelling up fund and funding from housing developers’ Section 106 money will enable them to make much-needed improvements to the park.
Work such as a new play area, path repairs, new benches, tree planting and reinstatement of a “speaking stone” are planned.
The group has made great progress in their first year, with repairs to the rose garden walls, new plants, maintenance of the orchard, graffiti removal and notice board repairs. Successful events include litter picking, branch collecting, a refreshment stall for the bands in the park and an apple pressing event.
Secretary Ingrid Hutchison, has built up a gardening group. She said: “The council has been very supportive. I remember the rose garden looking very shabby and then I visited an orchard which had been kept locked, to protect the young fruit trees. We fell in love with the orchard and have plans to use it as a community growing space, it’s already abundant with fruit trees. We plan to add new trees, fruit bushes and vegetable beds over time.
“We run weekly volunteer gardening sessions. The community’s support is so valuable for us and we couldn’t be more grateful for the hard work and dedication of our volunteers.”
Local resident Elaine Kerrigan said: “I walk my dog Maddie on the park every day. It’s great to see all the work that’s happened over the past year. The rose gardens and orchard look much better and there are regular litter picks. There’s still plenty to do such as re-stocking the beds and the new play area.”
Ann Forsaith, the Farnley & Wortley Green Party councillor who initially helped set up the group, said: “It is such a beautiful park, used and loved by many residents, but I knew that funding cuts had meant that the regular maintenance work needed had not been continued.
“The Rose Garden in particular was in a sorry state, but I could imagine how it could be restored. I knew that there had been a Friends group previously, and that there was still money in the account, an indicator that local people did care and were willing to help look after the park.
“Our local parks are shared open public spaces, and have been for generations. Looking after them is not just for now, but for the future as well. We know that getting out in the fresh air, and exercising is good for our health, both mental and physical, and the parks on our doorstep are spaces to do that. Working in an area, especially with a group of people gives a sense of belonging and shared endeavour, making our environment better for everyone.
“A Friends of New Wortley Recreation Ground group is also just about to be formed. Anyone interested can contact me.”
Councillor Mark Sewards (Lab, Farnley & Wortley) added: “They are a prime example of the good that residents can do when they work together to take pride in their area. It’s very important to me that we now secure the investment for the children’s play area to be moved and refurbished.
“Leeds City Council’s levelling up bid has been submitted and now we’re waiting for the government to let us know if we’re successful; they’ve said this will be in the ‘autumn’ with no date attached. We should also use section 106 money when it becomes available to ensure that the children’s play area gets the refurbishment it desperately deserves.“