Campaign to honour legacy of woman who transformed run-down Sheffield park

Barbara Morris at Richmond Park with a coach from Sheffield Wednesday
Barbara Morris at Richmond Park with a coach from Sheffield Wednesday
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The legacy of a dedicated volunteer who did so much to transform the fortunes of a now-thriving Sheffield park is to be honoured in the way she would have wanted.

Barbara Morris was at the heart of efforts to revive Richmond Park, which had suffered from years of under-investment, and make it once again the lively, well-maintained community gem in which she had enjoyed playing as a child.

Barbara dancing with Mark Goddard

Barbara dancing with Mark Goddard

As vice-chairwoman of the Friends of Richmond Park group, she helped set up the annual fun day, which is still going strong, and established weekly craft sessions, walking football and football training for young people run by coaches from Sheffield Wednesday.

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Her husband Phil Morris said she made it her mission in life to bring people together, be that by launching new activities at the park or through her involvement with numerous other community organisations including the Brush Strokes Art Group, Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, Sheffield Play Association, Sheffield Green Spaces Forum and Stradbroke Community Centre.

The 58-year-old mother-of-two, who suffered from a rare condition which caused her body to retain water and swell suddenly to up to three times her normal weight, sadly died in February.

Barbara celebrates the park getting a gold Open Spaces Award, with former councillor Lynn Rooney, former MP Meg Munn and friends group member Rex Baggely

Barbara celebrates the park getting a gold Open Spaces Award, with former councillor Lynn Rooney, former MP Meg Munn and friends group member Rex Baggely

Efforts are now under way to install a permanent memorial in the park - not a plaque or a statue but a rocking horse like the one she adored playing on in the park as a girl, so today's generation can get the same enjoyment she did.

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"Barbara grew up in the area and remembered how the park used to be, but before she got involved about a decade ago it was showing the effects of years of neglect and you would get burnt out cars there," said Phil.

"Now, thanks to Barbara and the friends group, we have a lovely playground, the park's thriving with community activity, and exciting things are happening which are part of her legacy.

Barbara in the park she loved

Barbara in the park she loved

"She was very stubborn. If she thought something needed to be done she would get out and do it, even if she was seriously ill.

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"I'm sure she's looking over us now and saying you're doing this or that wrong, but it would mean so much to her to know that the work she started in the park is continuing.

"Getting a rocking horse for the playground was one of her pet projects. She loved playing on it as a girl and was determined to get one back in the park."

Barbara with friends at a wreath-making event held in the park

Barbara with friends at a wreath-making event held in the park

The friends group is seeking to raise £8,000 for the rocking horse, and has just under £3,000 so far, including £700 donated by mourners at Barbara's funeral and £1,000 from Groundwork South Yorkshire.

Barbara was rarely seen without her beloved terrier Alfie by her side and often took him to St Luke's Hospice where he would bring smiles to the faces of patients and staff.

One of the events being planned to raise money for the rocking horse is a sponsored dog walk.

Amanda Smith, chairwoman of the friends group, said: "Barbara worked very hard to provide more things for children to do in the area and bring the community together, and it would be lovely if we could get this rocking horse installed in her memory."

Additional playground equipment and a multi-use games area where young people can play basketball, football and cricket are set to be added to the park soon, and long-term goals include getting a new pavilion and a café.

* To donate, or for more information about what's happening in the park, email forpsheffield@gmail.com or visit the Friends of Richmond Park, Sheffield Facebook page.