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 found out later that a firm from Leeds had wanted to buy the factory to expand, but unfortunately it didn’t happen ! To make improvements, some residents took it upon themselves to try to reinstate the blocked public footpaths that crossed the Park, whilst others such as Christine Parapia organized a group in 2010 to clear litter; a task aided by a grant from Morrisons. Meanwhile, Bellway Homes insisted the land was a ‘wild area, and would stay that way’.
In August 2011 Jennifer Kirkby initiated discussions with MP Stuart Andrew and Cllr Graham Latty about restoring the land to a useable condition, following research on it’s past use as a Park given to the people of Guiseley. She and Christine Parapia met on 31 August and decided to set up the Friends as a constituted group. With the help of Cllr Latty, they opened discussions with developers Bellway.
On 13 September 2011 a variety of concerned local people with a variety of skills came together to form the Friends of Parkinson’s Park (FOPP) – Chris Parapia (Chair), Barbara Winfield, Jennifer Kirkby, Andy Cheetham, Joanna Brooks and Colin Alexander. Barbara and Jennifer had done some initial historic research which led to the Friend’s name and the intention to restore the legacy of the Guiseley philanthropists, Frank and Albert Parkinson and Jonathan Peate. In addition it was decided to enhance the natural landscape of the Park in keeping with the Chevin Forest Park. This purpose for FOPP was written into the first constitution.
Once constituted, FOPP’s first task was to set up a website to keep residents informed via a blog to record progress and find out what people used the Park for and what it meant to them – so a call went out for stories and pictures from local people. The second, was to do an ecological and environmental audit for a landscape plan which was undertaken by Joanna and Peter Brooks with help from the Wharfedale Naturalists. Darren Shepherd shared his deep knowledge of the Park’s bird life. (If you search on Bird Watch in the search bar to the right you will find a number of his posts.)
2011 The park is regenerated
In November 2011 the Friends together with Bellway, started to regenerate the Park, based on the landscape plan the Friend’s had produced. Pudsey Landscapes were contracted to do a lot of the phase 1 regeneration work, Colin Alexander and Martyn Hornsby-Smith organized colleagues from Otley & Wharfedale Dry Stone Wallers in the restoration of some of the crumbling stonework, whilst Andy Cheetham took on the task of organizing the fitting of new benches and working groups.
There are many people to be thanked for their part in launching the regeneration of the Park, including people who simply continued on their own initiative to do small things such as litter picking and trying to stop anti-social behaviour and drug taking. The blog on this site follows the step by step progress starting here.
2012 Gave a real boost to the Park
The first open meeting for the Friends was held on 21 February 2012 as the opportunity to develop the Park was opened up to everyone who wanted to be involved. 2012 could not have been a better year to start getting people involved in 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. (Pictures from various Children’s Galas in our Gallery here.)
Finally in November 2012 FOPP was awarded an All Our Stories grant as part of The Great British Story programme organized by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This allowed for historical research, a geophysical survey, a study of the Park habitats and insect life, and research by David Leather from the West Yorkshire Geology Trust to unravel the geology and geomorphological events that made the Guiseley Gap – the area where the Park lies. (The blogs to do with the All Our Stories research start here.)
A film of the Park’s regeneration and the events of 2012 were also filmed by ex Crompton Parkinson employee and local film maker David Myers “Parkinson’s Park – A New Chapter”.
2013 and beyond
The blogs on this site trace the evolution of FOPP and the Park Improvements. Just a taste of some mile stones include:
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 community orchard was planted using a Leeds City Council horticultural grant. Bellway left the site after seeding the wildflower meadow 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. You can find annual reports on FOPP CIC on our About Page. In summer the first Codswallop Tales Told Lantern Parade and Firework Display was held. In August a bog garden was installed with the help of Open Country. And in October FOPP held the first Apple Day to celebrate the Community Orchard.
2017, saw a rise in vandalism at the start of the year and a number of fires started; in response Park Watch was started. At the other end of the scale Forests Schools came to the Park for the newly formed Little Friends of Parkinson’s Park.
In 2018, the Park information boards were installed and Trail brochures printed. As the year ended the Park commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI with a Coffee Morning fund raiser and Home for Heroes Exhibition as one of a number of community events.
2019 saw the running of a year long programme of all the events started previously including the long running Children’s Gala. Other habitat enhancement work included the bog garden and the wildflower meadow.
In 2020 a short film was made of the development of FOPP by ITV Calendar for their Park Life set of programmes. It showed how the development of the Park had greatly helped and supported the local residents through the Covid Pandemic of Spring 2020.
So are we now history?
Slowly over the years 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 downloadable copy of the leaflets here, or paper versions are available at our events or on request email email@example.com.