Ipswich is not noted for its shopping facilities but it does excel in the provision of beautiful parks and playgrounds, both of which are the envy of visitors to the town.
On the eastern side lies Alexandra Park where an enthusiastic group of Friends have recently been awarded a grant by Changing Spaces (the Big Lottery Fund) to restore the historic Byles Drinking Fountain, about which readers of this Newsletter may have read in last October's issue. (The Society has supported the renovation.) This is very good news! The Friends are also applying to other sources for further smaller grants to provide benches, tables and a notice board near the fountain.
Holywells, one of the three larger parks in the town, has been less fortunate in that its application for Heritage Lottery funding was not accepted but, undaunted, its group of dedicated Friends are seeking other ways to raise money and, to date, volunteers from the Prince's Trust and a Payback team have improved steps, constructed a pathway between the fourth pond and the former paddling pool and installed seating. There are plans for a circular walk and for an outside gym for young people and adults - in addition to the established and very popular playground for children. Another proposal is for Genesis, which has taken over three spaces in the Stable Block, to take in and repair bicycles to provide a Green Bike Hire scheme. In the long term this would link up with other parks so that cycles could be borrowed and left at designated points therein. The Friends are holding their ever popular Apple Day on Saturday, 24 October, 11 am-2 pm.
Chantry Park is to have a new playground adjacent to the car park east of the Sue Ryder Home and this should be completed by the end of this year. Bourne Park's playground has just been finished and is welcomed by all its users, especially as there is a large enclosed paddling pool nearby. Having young grandchildren, I and local parents did a simple survey of the equipment here and found room for minor improvements such as steps with handrails for toddlers to climb on various items and a strong need for cradle swings for babies. This information was passed on to the person responsible for future play layouts, including a request from several children who thought that an ice cream van would add to the attractions!
On to Christchurch Park where a few matters are still outstanding but where the benefits of the Heritage Lottery grant are ever more evident. The attractive new waste bins are being used "more or less efficiently" according to manager Sam Pollard, and the aim is to remove the old concrete bins and replace these with new ones - fewer in number but more strategically placed. The problem of duck feeding seems to be resolving itself with the addition of a 20p in-the-slot dispenser, organised by the Mansion caterers and with notices at all Park entrances urging the public to refrain from giving bread to the birds. Further information to this effect will be placed around the ponds. One feature attracting much interest is the splendid notice board near the Centre, donated by the Friends of Christchurch Park, which is regularly updated by a member, Reg Snook, giving fascinating details of the Park's wildlife. Volunteers for gardening, help at the Centre etc are always welcome. Please contact Sam Pollard on 01473252473 or 252435.
As regards open spaces, much work is being done to improve and link up green areas; a fine example is the two mile stretch of lanes, meadows, footpaths, woodlands and reed beds that extends from Belstead House to Bourne Park. The Parks and Open Spaces Forum is organising a seminar at the end of the year for all Friends' groups to enable people to share their views on such matters as producing a constitution, insurance, working with the Council, community interest, displaying enticing notice boards, etc. Date to be given later.
Of natural history interest: a peregrine falcon has nested in a ready-made box under the Orwell Bridge and has raised three chicks; an adder was seen in Chantry Park; and the tawny owl has returned to her roost in Christchurch Park, serenely observing the summer scenes of picnickers, football and gambolling dogs.