There’s something wonderful happening in Newsham Park… you might have seen it, a flowerbed tidied here, some trees planted there, benches re-painted, litter picked, spaces beautified and happenings happening.
Newsham Park is Grade II listed, one of a set of trailblazing Victorian public parks in Liverpool that includes Stanley Park, Princes Park and Sefton Park. Newsham stands out as the first individual work of the landscape architect Edward Kemp, who was responsible for the grounds at Chatsworth House and working alongside Joseph Paxton, the design of Birkenhead Park, which was the inspiration behind Manhattan’s Central Park.
As well as having an outstanding pedigree, the park is surrounded by a wonderful, strong and active community that loves its open space, which is best illustrated by not one, but two, successful campaigns to save areas of the park from house building within the last ten years. But what’s happening here isn’t just about campaigning and reacting to misguided policy, the local community, fearlessly represented by Treehouse CIC and the Friends of Newsham Park, as well as some passionate individuals, are determined to re-imagine and further enrich this incredible community asset by taking ownership and showering it with love.
This passion is wonderfully illustrated by Treehouse CIC, an organisation that has enabled the contribution of over 1,000 volunteer hours, volunteering that I’ve been proud to take part in. Working with an awesome crowd I’ve had the chance to plant a wildflower meadow, contribute to the saving of the Victorian Bandstand and planted trees as part of national tree planting week. In addition to this I’ve also met some brilliant people, had some exercise, learnt new skills and had a laugh!
Importantly though, people have different reasons for taking part, some want to give something back, some want to get out of the house and others see it as an essential part of their wellbeing.
In addition to making a difference to the look of the park, Treehouse and the local community are campaigning to change the way Newsham is perceived. People come together for monthly philosophy discussions, to use the green gym, do yoga classes, go on buggy walks and sail their model boats on the lake. The park has also seen one off events such as ‘Reclaim the Night’, a glo festival with lights, drumming and activities, film nights at the bandstand and ‘Feel the Love, Show the Love’ an annual event that celebrates all that is wonderful and joyous about the park.
It doesn’t stop here though, momentum is building in Newsham Park and it’s a perfect example of how, in these times of austerity, responsibility for our open spaces can be shared, with local people becoming the active custodians of our shared, open spaces.