Richmond Park is a real hidden gem. So says Amanda Smith who took over as chair of the Friends of Richmond Park group in the summer.
“It’s come a long way in the ten years since FORP launched and we’re so proud of the work that’s been done there.
“Our main issue now is that, because of the location and the fact there isn’t much signposting, a lot of local residents still don’t actually know that it’s there - something we’re determined to fix in 2018!”
Richmond Park consists of about 60 acres of land, based just off Richmond Road, accessible down a ginnel that is highlighted only by a tiny blue sign.
“A decade ago, this place was quite derelict,” Amanda says.
“The park is located on the outskirts of one of the poorest areas in Sheffield and has a mix of local estates close by.
“The play equipment that was there was broken, and there were a lot of issues with anti-social behaviour, such as motorbikes zipping through, and fires being started. The group really had its work cut-out tidying it up.”
The Friends of Richmond park was first formed as a community group in late 2006 with the aim of protecting and, if possible, improving the under-utilized green space that was Sheffield Richmond park.
The community group worked closely with Sheffield Council’s parks and countryside department and developed an ambitious master plan that, if successful would, make the park a cornerstone of community life.
They set to work, rallying their community, councillors, and supporters at their local Co-op - and today the park is almost unrecognisable.
“It’s been really exciting,” Amanda confirms.
“In 2009, FORP began hosting community events, such as the annual community fun day, football training, and activities with the rangers service. In 2011, it was decided by unanimous vote that the group could maximise its efforts to improve both the park and the lives of the local community by becoming a registered charity.
“We received £3,500 funding from the Local Community Fund and Richmond Road Coop in the summer, to help host a fun day event, which attracted more than 500 people.
“Earlier this month the same store donated another £,1786 towards hosting our community Christmas event. We’ve since learned the store has selected us for funding next year. The staff there have been so supportive and we’re truly grateful for that local community support.
“There’s a new planting scheme for the front entrance which has been commissioned by Parks and Countryside, which will be jointly funded by ourselves.
“Earlier this month, the Community Forestry Team - from Parks and Countryside assisted in planting three pin oak trees in the park. These trees were chosen for their beautiful shape and colours through the seasons and that they are a British variety.
“In the spring the team will be back to plant some more fruit trees in the Community Orchard.
“The community rangers have been working in the park doing repairs and building a bike stop to reduce the number of off-road bikes coming in. On January 31 there will be a ranger day to clear the small pond and assist with putting up bird boxes.
“The parks team have been doing a great job too, of cutting back, and tidying in preparation for winter and general maintenance.
“We also have new play equipment, have had a climbing boulder fitted, a BMX track, and a zip-line; it’s a really exciting place now for children and young people to come and visit.”
Amanda, a mum-of-one who lives locally, joined the Friends of Richmond Park group 18 months ago.
“What we’re doing here is future proofing the park,” she explains.
“This has been a year of working in our community, with our community, for our community.
“Christmas has been a lovely time here too, with our festive event supported by St Catherine of Siena Church and Father Philip Knowles. The church youth team supported nativity activities and carol singing and our hardy volunteers did wreath making, decorated snowmen, wrote letters to Santa and we had a visit from Father Christmas himself, also known as Coun Peter Ripon, and Coun Dianne Hurst who dressed as Mrs Christmas.
“Our local councillors are amazing and have supported the group during the year by attending general meetings and talking to residents, and by financially assisting with funds for park improvements. We are grateful for their time and help so willingly given.
“We’ve also added regular group activities to our schedule, such as a weekly craft group which meets each Tuesday, a walking football team on a Thursday and junior football sessions on a Saturday, which have been funded by various bodies.
“In the summer, we held a sports day, a superhero picnic, and hosted a great Macmillan coffee morning.
“We’d like to take the start of a new year as an opportunity to thank everyone - the committee members, FORP members, volunteers, and partnership groups - who have given their time and energy to making Richmond Park somewhere wonderful for local families. Let’s hope we can continue that success and raise the profile of this brilliant park in 2018.”
Visit ‘Friends of Richmond Park Sheffield’ on Facebook.