Friday 25th September 2020
The Park Redevelopment
Improving Stafford Orchard park was a long term aim of Quorn Parish Council but as usual finding the money was a significant obstacle. So when in 2006 the Heritage and Big Lottery Funds announced their Parks for People scheme to provide Lottery funding for the refurbishment of old and run-down parks, it seemed an opportunity not to be missed. So in February 2006 a group of volunteers and councillors from the community got together to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant to give Stafford Orchard a makeover. However, the group soon found itself in fierce competition with metropolitan, county, district and town parks backed by considerable resources - getting a grant would prove to be a major challenge.
But three years on, following a huge amount of work by the project team and help from professional landscape consultants Bellinger Design (who also designed The Cross and The Banks in Quorn), the Lottery announced in April 2009 the award of a grant of £645,500 to refurbish Stafford Orchard park. Quorn was the only Parish Council granted a Parks for People award, and Stafford Orchard was one of only eight parks in England to be awarded funding under the scheme in 2009. Together with partnership funding from Charnwood Borough Council and Quorn Parish Council, Section 106 funds from housing developments in the village, and grants to help restore the old lock-up and the public toilets, over £800,000 became available to rebuild the park and associated buildings.
From the outset, the project team consulted widely throughout the village about what kind of park the community wanted. Schools, playgroups, clubs, societies, families, people in the street, care and sheltered houses, environmentalists - all contributed to the plan. Children chose their favourite play equipment from images and catalogues, teenagers designed a skate park, the elderly and infirm gave their views on access, seating and quiet areas, drama groups and bands commented on the performance space requirements, people filled in forms and answered survey questions about their use of the Stafford and what aspects of the park they liked and disliked. Local experts advised on trees, archaeology, horticulture, wildlife and habitats, artworks, biodiversity, security, history and heritage.
All this was fed into the designs for the park and the final consultation in the summer of 2008 showed that almost everyone asked (98%) approved of the master plan.
“It’s my birthday party next week - will it be ready by then?” asked a small boy at the May Day exhibition of the plans in 2009. Inevitably, it took a bit longer than that. After more work to cross the t’s and dot the i’s on the final designs, a major tendering exercise began under the supervision of the Heritage Lottery Fund to select a landscape and building contractor. Work on site finally began in May 2010.
Access is not simply about how to get in and out of the park, although all the entrances have been improved and made more welcoming. In the wider context, access is about providing facilities and interests for all age groups and abilities - walking the dog, relaxing on a bench, picnicking, using the play equipment, casual and organised games on the grassed areas or hard play courts, BMX/skateboarding, chilling out with friends, exercising, attending special events, feeding the ducks, looking for wildlife, helping to keep the park in good shape ….
New paths have been created to allow access to previously inaccessible areas of the park for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and existing paths have been widened, resurfaced and lit. A raised area can be used as a performance space for bands, concerts and outdoor events. Heritage boards sited in unobtrusive locations provide information about the history and heritage of Stafford Orchard and the buildings surrounding the park.
Picnic tables enable everyone to enjoy the brook-side environment, and benches located throughout the park provide oases for ‘taking the weight off ones feet’. Whether you are walking through the lime tree memorial avenue, supervising children in the play areas, relaxing in the sensory garden, watching a casual game of soccer, or shouting encouragement to friends playing five-a-side football or skateboarding, you’re never far from a seat.
The rebuilt Park Services Building at the main entrance to the park in Station Road houses the groundsman’s workshop and office and refurbished public toilets. This area, and the park itself, are monitored by 4 CCTV cameras for security and safety.
Immediately adjacent to the Park Services Building, the Grade 2 listed lock-up at the park entrance has been sensitively restored to reflect its appearance when it was first constructed as a gaol in Victorian times. It continues to be used by a takeaway pizza business. Alongside it are reinstated public stocks in the style of the ones removed in 1868.
The Station Road pedestrian entrance has been renamed ‘82nd Airborne’ on an archway as a tribute to the US 505th regiment stationed in Quorn who gave their lives in World War II. Consultations with the now dwindling band of 505th veterans, their representatives in England, and Quorn British Legion decided that refurbishment of the park offered a unique opportunity to give more prominence to this rather neglected memorial to the US forces.
The gaps in the lime tree avenue (which form part of the 82nd memorial) have been filled, the stone from Nijmegen church in Holland has been given more prominence, and a heritage information board nearby explains the history and significance of the memorial. A sensory garden located adjacent to the stone provides a peaceful setting (or as peaceful as the Station Road traffic allows). The memorial will be rededicated.
Deryk Wills and son David at the Nijmegen Stone memorial in the park. Deryk, a member of the Royal British Legion, acted as the local representative of the 82nd Airborne in the UK for many years and has helped to facilitate visits to the UK for many of those troops who were stationed in Quorn in 1944.
37 new trees and beds of native shrubs have been planted in the park, willows established by the brook near the School Lane bridge, gaps filled in the existing hedgerows and new hedgerows have been created to maintain and increase the feeding corridors for bats and other wildlife. Volunteers have planted fifteen thousand spring bulbs and created a sensory garden at the Station Road end of the park. Jane Hollingworth, a village volunteer and horticulturalist, designed the garden and supervised its planting. The garden will take a few years to mature but the plants have been carefully chosen to provide all-year round colour, fragrance and interest. Some parts of the park will not be closely mown in order to provide new wildlife habitats. These areas have been seeded with native wildflowers. The brook area has been earmarked for further development to improve the habitats for wildlife, for additional waterside planting and for the creation of areas for natural play.
Members of the Parks for People project team brainstorming at Od-Thorpes. This meeting reviewed the initial design of The Handstand sculpture by Ben Greenwood.
Behind The Handstand, a sculpture by Ben Greenwood, the under 8’s play area gets a lot of use, and in the over 8’s park near School Lane there are queues at peak times for the skate ramps, zip-wire, multi-use games area, and the play equipment. Those feeling more active can walk or run the new path circuit around the park, at roughly four laps to the mile. When that becomes too much there are benches on the performance area and all around the pathways; and everywhere is wheelchair and push-chair friendly.
The football pitch has been levelled and reseeded.
An unexpected opportunity to add another feature to the park arose when a diseased chestnut tree adjacent to Station Road had to be felled. The resulting fox and hound tree-sculpture by Kevin Deignan of Hungarton proved to be an instant hit. To complete the ‘arty’ bits, two of the sculptures in the churchyard carved from the stone capping when Wright’s Victorian factory chimney was demolished have been relocated to the community garden to complement the new tree carving and to add interest.
A Park for People
A Park Management Committee (PMC) made up of parish councillors and members of the community manages the park. In addition, part-time Park Wardens act as the eyes and ears of the PMC; they walk the park, chat to visitors, report problems, defects, vandalism etc, and volunteers help the groundsman with planting, brook clearing, maintenance and event stewarding.
There has already been a positive response to volunteering for these roles - if you think you can spare a little time, please contact the parish clerk or drop in to the High Street office.