Young Sheffield boy, six, lands job helping to transform part of popular Sheffield park

Little Luke Buchanan may only be six years old.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 11:02 am

But the youngster from Greystones has found himself a job transforming a corner of one of Sheffield’s most loved parks.

Luke, along with his younger twin sisters Erin and Alma, aged four, has joined a growing team of volunteers who have taken up the task of transforming what is regarded as an underused piece of grass at Bingham Park into a wildflowers area which locals hope will become a haven for wildlife.

Along with mum Zoe and dad Lee, they have made the project a family affair over the last few weeks and months, as the land, known locally as Wilson’s Field, near the junction of Highcliffe Road and Greystones Road, becomes the centre of residents’ efforts to create something for their community.

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Mum and son Zoe and Luke Buchanan at Bingham Park
Mum and son Zoe and Luke Buchanan at Bingham Park

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They are among around 30 signed up to help with the project, first proposed by nearby resident Peter Bayliss, a retired local government officer from High Storrs, which has now been taken up by the group Friends of Porter Valley.

And their local councillor reckons if it is a success, similar schemes could be run across the whole of the city.

Peter, aged 75, who worked in libraries before he retired, said: “I’ve lived up the hill from here for 45 years, and this was a corner of the park where you rarely see people, because it gets quite boggy. I thought that was a shame.

Sheffield Council parks supervisor Darron Lingard Bingham Park

"The only time it ever seemed to get used was in winter, as a sledging run down the path.

“But not many people seem to come to this bit of the park, although we do get a lot of High Storrs pupils coming through on their way home from school.”

After getting permission to try to change things from the council parks department, with help from his local councillor, Barbara Masters Peter floated it with other residents on social media groups. Initially he got 15 people throwing their gardening hats in the ring to join him.

Once people started seeing them out and about, and word started to spread, that soon doubled.

Pictured left to right at Bingham Park are Linda Bayliss, Barbara Masters, and Catherine Downes

The scheme is now moving forwards. The grass in that particular part of the park has not been mown since October.

Paths will be mown through the long grass for better access for children though, and the council will arrange that part of the job.

Volunteers have also removed brambles to allow a bigger area to be used for the ‘rewilding’. A first section has been cleared, in between a number of trees. More are to be taken away over the coming months.

“This week we’ve been putting in more seeds,” Peter added. “I think it’s started really well. It’s going to be really colourful. It will give people the chance to get interested in the flora and the fauna.

Volunteers Peter Bayliss and Glyn Mansell removing brambles at Bingham Park

"We think it will increase the interest in the area.”

The Buchanan family agree.

Mum Zoe said her children started to take an interest in nature during lockdown, planting seeds in their garden and watching them grow.

She saw social media posts for Peter’s project and signed up.

"I just felt it was something that they would be interested in,” she said: “They were asking for people to help them growing seeds, and we thought it was something we could do as a family activity.

"It was nice doing it, and it is great to think that it is not just for our benefit. The children really enjoy coming here and looking where they have been planting.

Bingham Park volunteers at work

"I’m sure they will use it once it is completed.”

Catherines Downes, a volunteer from Bents Green, has brought wild flowers from her allotment to plant at the project.

In the context of an allotment, they were classed as weeds. But for the wildflowers project, the cowslips and pignut she brought are flowers.

"I think it’s going to be buzzing with wildlife,” she said.

Barbara Masters, the local councillor, said she had hoped to get local schools involved in the project – but lockdown had hit those plans, as well as delaying the project.

She said: “The original plans were for an April start last year with school involvement but covid put a stop to all of that.

"We have now started the project which will probably take five years to complete because of the amount of ground work that needs doing to give the plants the best chance of becoming established and sustainable and we’re not using pesticides at any stage.

"We hope to get a succession of colour for most of the year because this will draw people’s attention to the plants and maintain curiosity. If more people get on board with the idea, and understand the amount of work involved then we hope that other small pockets in the parks can get similar treatment in the future.

"I think the main thing is to get the local youngsters interested in the wildlife around them,” she said. “It is a long term project. People seem to be taking more interest in parks and the countryside through the pandemic.

"If we make it a success I think other community groups will copy the scheme in other parts of Sheffield. But I think it’s too much for parks staff to do on their own because of manpower.

"There is interest from a few groups that work with children.”

It is one of a number of projects going on in Bingham Park.

Members of the Bingham Park Community Group are trying to raise £20,000 to pay for new basketball and netball spaces, as well as a mini skateboard, scooter and cycle track for children, after battling council plans to demolish old tennis courts, which its members said had been left to become derelict.

The Bingham Park Community Group comes under the umbrella of Friends of Porter Valley. Donate here, www.crowdfunder.co.uk/make-bingham-park-brilliant-for-everyone.

Volunteers have cleared brambles from this part of Bingham Park
The uncut area of Bingham Park