Archive for 19/11/2013


Community Food Growing in a Garden City – New project

‘Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and the RHS are joining forces in an innovative community-focused programme to create three new sustainable green spaces in the heart of the town.

It is hoped that the project will ultimately be used as a model for how communities, especially those in low-income areas, can best utilise their public green space for food production and to create affordable and attractive areas, which are a benefit to local wildlife as well as the community…..’

Click on link above for more info.

Old School Gardener

Life Cycle of a Leaf

pic via @earth_pics

This Country Park had some beautiful autumn leaf colours
This Country Park had some beautiful autumn leaf colours

Regular readers may recall that I’m a judge for the national ‘Green Flag’ scheme, that accredits parks, and public open spaces. Recently I was asked to do an interim assessment of a country park, one that I’ve inspected previously. But this time it was to be a ‘mystery shopper’ visit looking at how well the park is being cared for, if previous standards are being maintained.

It was an interesting experience, involving checking on some of the important factors that make for a good public space – lack of litter and dog fouling, good signage and access, clean and safe facilities etc. I set off, armed with my clip board and questionnaire ready to go.

This Green Flag wasn't doing much on a damp and breathless November afternoon
This Green Flag wasn’t doing much on a damp and breathless November afternoon

Though it was a damp and dank November Sunday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to be met by a car park that was buzzing and with lots of people. After getting out of the car I noticed that many (if not most) of the people, loitering here had impressive binoculars, telescopes and were dressed in green/ camouflage. Yes, the twitchers had descended! Apparently a flock of Parrot Crossbills had arrived earlier in the day and the twitcher grapevine had alerted everyone to come and see. Alas these colourful migrants had long since departed, but the twitchers were  hanging around hopefully, in case of a return!

I was also interested to see that a mobile coffee stall was set up in the car park, an innovation I had not seen here before, but which seemed to be going down well with the visitors. I spoke to the vendor and he confirmed that he was here most of the time during the summer months and had an arrangement with the owners of the park so that he paid a commission for the trading right.

A couple of other interviews with visitors may have been unrepresentative, but they were all complementary of the park and its facilities, though all were infrequent or even new to the park today – an interesting fact itself.

The paths were well Way marked- this one was also attractively carved
The paths were well Way marked- this one was also attractively carved

I  completed the audit – toilets open and clean, information leaflets and signs in place, paths well waymarked, interesting play areas and wooden sculptures en route. So, all in good order and the previous high standards of maintenance seemed to be in evidence once more.The mixed woodland and heathland were looking lovely  decked out in their autumn colours and the park was remarkably busy given the weather and time – maybe the prospect of hot coffee had attracted passing visitors in!

So a definite ‘pass’ for this place, though with a couple of suggestions about lighting the toilets, some safety concerns around some new wooden features being constructed and the potential inconvenience of having a key – controlled disabled toilet doubling up with baby changing facilities (if the door is shut how does a parent who is not disabled take advantage of these?).

I’m not sure if these ‘RADAR’ key controlled toilets are still thought to be a good idea and are generally provided today. Yes, it’s good that the disabled can have their own ‘private’ facility that stands less chance of being abused, but this case suggested that the scheme might be a bit inflexible (especially for parents with babies in need of a change and disabled users without a key).

A more significant point is perhaps that the rest of the park was not particularly ‘disabled friendly’, especially if you’re a wheelchair user. Gravelled car park and paths that are ‘natural’ and become ‘naturally’ muddy and wet for instance. Maybe some designated disabled parking bays with hard surfacing leading to a boardwalk path would be an idea in this situation?

Locked Loo (and baby changing area)- unless you're  a disabled person with a key
Locked Loo (and baby changing area)- unless you’re a disabled person with a key

All in all, though a satisfying expedition and another approach to judging facilities that I’d not experienced before.

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