Volunteering In Parks
by Simon Goff
Volunteering provides many benefits and volunteers frequently report a greater sense of wellbeing: they feel healthier and happier, they feel part of a community, they learn new skills, have fun and gain satisfaction from making a difference in their community.
It’s estimated that 19.4 million people volunteered during 2019 and a growth area for volunteering in recent years has been through the many park friend’s groups which have sprung up around the country.
In Burnley, the Council operates a Volunteer in Parks programme (ViP) which connects people with the park friend’s groups and provides direct work placements for younger volunteers wishing to gain practical work experience before college or apprenticeships.
One of the longest running friend’s groups in Burnley are the Friends of Towneley Park who were awarded the Queens Award for Volunteering in recognition of the contribution that volunteers have made to the park since the group was set up in the early 2000s. The group has raised tens of thousands of pounds for park improvements, planted swathes of beautiful spring bulbs with school children, developed a new play area and interpretive trails and holds a regular Thursday morning gardening group throughout the year.
Ightenhill Park is literally buzzing with activity thanks to an active friend’s group which looks after beehives in the park and attracts up to a dozen volunteers every Wednesday morning to undertake gardening activities. The volunteers have installed lighting, seats and picnic benches and have fundraised for new facilities including tennis courts and fitness equipment. They organise many successful events in the park including carol & brass band concerts and the popular Ightenhill Festival in summer.
Many readers will have visited Thompson Park, a popular 1930’s park close to the centre of Burnley and which retains many traditional features such as a boating lake, paddling pool, play area and cafe but is perhaps best known for the miniature railwaywhich loops around this beautiful park and brings smiles and laughter to more than 20,000 passengers per year! The railway has been developed entirely by volunteers from the Burnley and Pendle Miniature Railway Society who have a core group of 25 volunteers and always welome more!
Some people prefer to volunteer individually and there are many unsung heroes who pick up litter whilst out on their daily walks. One individual that has been recognised is a retired carpenter who single-handedly restored all of the benches in Scott Park and then went on to restore 75 cast iron and timber benches in Thompson Park. In recognition of his wonderful contribution, he was invited to attend a Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace!
So, volunteering really is open to all ages and abilities and volunteers are able to commit as much or as little time as they want. It is not just physical work either as volunteers also help with organising events, providing refreshment’s, fund raising, etc. If you have some time to spare, contact your local park friend’s group.