Sheffielders show pride in city's parks and green spaces after winning 13 Green Flag awards

Sheffield Council and its hard-working park staff have spoken of the pride in being recognised with 13 awards across the city’s parks and green spaces, some for the 15th year running.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 15th October 2020, 4:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th October 2020, 4:45 pm

On a chilly autumnal day with golden, brown and yellow leaves scattering the ground, many were out enjoying the varied green spaces in the steel city.

Behind the scenes, park staff were busy clearing the paths and maintaining these special spots for around 580,000 residents plus visitors.

Their hard work was recognised this week by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy who awarded 13 Green Flags at various sites in Sheffield.

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Sheffield Park awards. Mary Lea cabinet member for parks in Norfolk Park.

The scheme celebrates well-managed parks and green spaces under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Martin Rodgers, who has worked for the council in Norfolk Heritage Park for around five years, said: “We’ve got some nice heritage in Sheffield, all over the city as well. A lot of people I don’t think realise what it’s like and what benefits it has until they come, and it is good.

“Norfolk Park is a good local attraction for people, especially now the playground has been done and stuff like that, it’s getting better every year.

“For the work we put in it’s a nice award, obviously we are limited to staff due to the budget these days. To keep winning it year after year it makes you feel more rewarded for the hard work you put in and comments from locals as well that let us know we are doing a good job. For the size of our team, a lot of hard work goes in.”

Sheffield Park awards. Norfolk Park.

Amy Thompson, who was out enjoying the park, said: “I was brought up around here and it’s nice. It wasn’t as nice as this though when I was growing up, but it is a good park for the kids, they love it, it’s all enclosed and it’s clean.

“My favourite park is probably Graves, because you have the animals there. If they put some animals and a cafe here it would be the perfect park.”

Olivia Cooper, who also lives in the city, said: “We go to Graves, Millhouses, Rother Valley - we try to go to parks where there is a walk as well so we will try to do a few laps walking then let the kids play.”

Parks recognised in the awards this year were: Botanical Gardens, Cholera Grounds and Clay Wood, Devonshire Green, Ecclesall Woods, Firth Park, Meersbrook Park, Millhouses Park, Norfolk Heritage Park, Peace Gardens, Weston Park, Wheata Woods, Winter Gardens and Tinsley Green.

Sheffield Park awards. Norfolk Park. Martin Rodgers.

To mark the success, Botanical Gardens Pavillion, Weston Park Bandstand, the Winter Gardens and Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre will join landmarks across the country in lighting up green from October 14 to 16 to say thank you to parks staff, volunteers and judges.

Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure at the council, said: “I’m really proud, especially because we have had such a tough time over the past 10 years, let alone over this last six months or so.”

She added: “Parks are important for making us feel better, for health and wellbeing, physical exercise, mental health - they have such a beneficial effect on all of those things for all of us.

“People love the parks in Sheffield, when we did the Big Conversation last year it came out on top for what people thought was great about Sheffield. It makes you feel proud that people do treasure them.

Sheffield Park awards. Norfolk Park.

“We must thank the friends of parks too because we have many groups across the city who do all the stuff we can’t do and take care of it, they really are an asset to the city.

“I think Sheffield is the greenest city in the country, we have the Peak District on our doorstep and lots of beautiful woodland in the city. All the parks are beautiful and great in their own way even if they are small.”

The council said there are more than 800 green open spaces in the city, many with rich histories that have seen various changes over the years.

Coun Douglas Johnson, leader of Sheffield Green Party, said: “We know the people of Sheffield really appreciate their green heritage. Parks offer a vital haven for physical and mental respite from the stresses of the pandemic.

“The great parks in Sheffield were built up from Victorian leaders who recognised the need for outdoor space and recreation for the people of Sheffield and it’s an important link to see people using them in the same way.

“It’s sad, though, to see the decline in Green Flag Awards from the highpoint of 22 awards in 2011. This is another measure of continual cuts in public spending that affect us all.”

Sheffield Park awards. Norfolk Park.

Going forward, Coun Lea said the council is hoping to build on the success of this year’s awards and aim for even more Green Flag Awards in the future.

There are plans to plant at least 100,000 trees in the city over the next 10 years, and Coun Lea said there are a number of other investment schemes on the horizon too.

She added: "Look after your parks, they are there for you and they are going to bring you health and wellbeing so look after them and we will look after them as well, and let us know if anything is going wrong."

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