continued from ……………………………Friends of Parkinson’s Park
As local people, we watched this sad deterioration with heavy hearts and tears in our eyes, not knowing what the future had in store. It doesn’t really help, but we did find out that a firm from Leeds had wanted to buy the factory to expand, but unfortunately it didn’t happen ! Meanwhile, some took it upon themselves to try to reinstate the footpaths, whilst others such as Christine Parapia began to clear the growing litter; a task aided by a grant from Morrisons .
Then in the late summer of 2011, after discussion with Local Councillors, a variety of concerned local people came together to form the Friends of Parkinson’s Park – Chris Parapia, Barbara Winfield, Jennifer Kirkby, Andy Cheetham, Joanna Brooks and Colin Alexander. The intention, written into the constitution, was to restore the legacy of the Guiseley philanthropists, Frank and Albert Parkinson, and Jonathan Peate, and enhance the integrity of the Chevin escarpment, in keeping with the Friends of Chevin Forest Park.
One of our first tasks was to find out what people used the Park for and what it meant to them – so we put out a call for stories and pictures from local people.
The park is regenerated and the events restart
Meanwhile, the Friends as a whole Chaired by Chris Parapia, together with Bellway Homes, started to regenerate the Park, under a landscape plan put together by the Friends (Joanna Brooks knowledge was particularly useful here) with local ecologists, and other groups interested in natural history such as the Wharfedale Naturalists. As part of the All Our Stories project Joanna organized a study of insect life and the Park habitats whilst David Leather from the West Yorkshire Geology Trust helped unravel the geology and geomorphological events that made the Guiseley Gap. Darren Shepherd shared his deep knowledge of the Park’s bird life.
Other local people continued, on their own initiative, and with the Friends, to look after the Park in small ways, and to try to stop any increase in anti-social behaviour and drug taking. Colin Alexander and Martyn Hornsby-Smith organized colleagues from Otley & Wharfedale Dry Stone Wallers into days spent mending some of the crumbling stonework, whilst Andy Cheetham took on the task of organizing the fitting of new benches and working groups.
2012 could not have been a better year to start work on the Park, as it was the year of both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics coming to the UK. Both events, gave rise to grants for landscape improvements helped by experienced fund-raiser Nicola Denson joining the team. Jubilee Walk at the top of Great Brow was planted with shrubs from the Woodland Trust, and an oak from the Queen’s estate at Sandringham was planted as a commemorative tree – and stolen. After hearing the story on this blog the Sandringham team sent the Park a new tree.
Grants also gave the Friends the means to relaunch the Children’s Gala in June 2012 with a Jubilee Picnic and Games – a successful event which is growing each year, as more local groups join in.
In 2013, the Friends launched the first Lantern Parade, to replace the old Autumn Bonfire; and event which was joined by the local churches and community choir in 2014.
In 2015, the Heritage Open Day walks became a regular event. The community orchard was planted. Bellway, left the site and Meadfleet took over basic maintenance.
4th March 2016, the Friends of Parkinson’s Park became a Community Interest Company, in order to better raise funds and look after the evolving Park on behalf of the community
So are we now history?
Slowly over the years of the project the history of the Park and Kelcliffe area has re-emerged, pushing back the timeline. Features in the landscape indicate that the area has been in continuous use since at least the Bronze Age (BC 2,300 – 801) probably earlier. It is also fascinating to see the timeline move forward and to realize that as we’ve been capturing the history we ourselves have all been making it. But that is what the Great British Story project was all about – to show the march of time and the role we all play in it. We thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this possible.
We now have a short leaflet available ‘The Story Trail’ with the key stories we found in our research. As well as a children’s I-Spy Trail. There are also interpretation boards in the Park . The All Our Stories Board is by the top copse with a map drawn by illustrator David Griffiths of the key points of interest. The Ecology and Geology Board is by the bench on Little Kelcliffe designed by Lynne Gorner. You can get a copy of the Story Trail from Guiseley, Rawdon, Yeadon or Menston Library, or at one of our events. The I-Spy Trail is available at Guiseley or Menston Library, Swincar Nursery and Guiseley Theatre. We will also be putting downloadable copies of both on the website in the near future.