Once used as common grazing land, then bought by the council and designed by Henry Giles as a fishing pool Swanshurst Park has been a well-loved green space for nearly 100-years. Once including a busy boating lake and mini golf course the park lies between Billesley and Moseley in the south of Birmingham.
Swanshurst Park has always been a well-loved green space and while there have been lots of changes at Swanshurst Park over the years one thing has always been central to it – people.
That love transcended into action when the idea of a Friends of Swanshurst Park Group was discussed – and within just six weeks there were over 20 members and a growing list of local people wanting to help nurture their local park. Hamira Sultan came up with the idea of starting a friends group and has been wowed by the whirlwind of interest and pledges from local people to keep Swanshurst Park looking functional, beautiful and central to its community.
Hamira, a mum of one and works for Future Parks Accelerator as the Director of Naturally Birmingham www.futureparks.org.uk and a Public Health Consultant lives in Moseley.
Hamira says: Swanshurst Park backs onto my garden and I feel lucky that it is so accessible to my family and me. As a child, I was brought up in Perry Barr, there weren’t many parks and certainly none within walking distance of my home. My family never had a car so I never got to enjoy parks as a child. I didn’t like getting dirty and even as a young adult I had no interest in gardens or gardening so I bought a flat, not a house.
When I moved to Moseley four-years-ago suddenly I had a garden and a park to enjoy. I was surrounded by nature – I had no idea what I’d been missing!
When my son, Esa, (now aged-four) was born I started to understand the value of green spaces and nature. I learnt to ride a bike with my son in Swanshurst Park, I enjoyed the playground and the swings for the first time and realised we were connecting with nature together- a first for both of us.
We started building lots of happy memories in that park – and it is all about building memories. If we all stop and think for a moment when asked, ‘what’s your favourite park?’ There will always be an impassioned response and a story to tell. Now it’s difficult to keep myself and my family away from the park. Whatever the weather we are out bike riding, on nature trails, in the playground or spotting birds around the lake.’
Hamira’s job at Future Parks Accelerator is committed to making all parks and green spaces more accessible. The aim, to have better management of parks and green spaces, ensure the community have greater wellbeing because of their local green spaces, a wider demographic of the community become involved in their parks and green spaces and that the local area will be a better place to work, live and visit because of these green spaces.
Hamira spends a great deal of her spare time promoting, improving and enjoying Swanshurst Park along with 23 volunteers and counting – making the park look wonderful and accessible. Hamira says: “We want to encourage more people to engage with their parks and access the great green spaces around them regularly. Not just see their park as a place to visit, but a place to invest in. For children and adults to connect with nature, to understand the value of their green space and to love it. For it to be an extension of their home.
So, last November I started thinking about starting a Friends of Swanshurst Park Group. I put the word out and the response was brilliant. After some insight and advice from BOSF I set about putting my ideas into action. It’s been nearly four months and we have wonderful group of volunteers with a varied pool of skills to share, teachers, community workers, people with local knowledge who have lived in the area for years.
One of our most eager volunteers is Esa, he will come on litter picks, he checks on the birdlife around the pond with me. He understands about the wild flowers in the park and how we should leave them to bloom and not pick them. He helps with our organisation of nature trails. He knows the names and types trees in the park.
We now have regular litter picks (within COVID-19 restrictions), we’ve tidied up the signs to the park, asking people to park their cars responsibly and safely. We are now running education sessions for children and adults and encouraging engagement from the local community.
It can be disheartening when we see litter strewn inter park or bins over-spilling with rubbish. As much as it upsets me, I try to think that if there is litter in the park, there are people in the park and if there are people in the park they are benefitting physically and emotionally from it. Not everyone is brought up with the same insights about littering or social expectations so we try not to lecture people, rather show how much more lovely the park is if we all contribute a little to keeping it clean and tidy. And now with every new visit to the park, I notice more joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, families, people playing football, exercising and enjoying nature.
We have big plans for our park and we are applying for community funding to maybe put a wild meadow in our park, have more educational workshops and have youth workers engaging with the children who use the park. We have members who are coming up with some great ideas for people to access nature in the park and for us to nurture young advocates for our park, so the message will filter through children, parents, grandparents and so on.
We know our park is seeing more interaction and a lot of positive feedback about the work we are doing. And we ask if you are interested in becoming a member of the Friends of Swanshurst Park group we will always welcome your input and interest in the park. The park means different things to different people. Whether it’s a socially distanced chat on a park bench, part of a rambling trail, dog walking route or regular play date – or even a quiet space to sit and unwind. One in eight British homes does not have a garden, so parks are more important than ever. So while you might need your park – never forget your park also needs you! If you are interested in the work of the Friends Swanshurst Park or would like to become a member please follow or contact them on social media –
Facebook -Friends of Swanshurt Park
Instagram – friends_of_swanshurst_park
Twitter – @FOSwanshurst
e – firstname.lastname@example.org