The pandemic highlighted, in an unprecedented way, the importance of having local and accessible green spaces in our communities. Now, more than ever, we understand the interconnection between wellbeing, good mental health and being active in and around nature. As we are bombarded with news of climate events and the destruction of biodiversity, we are called to work together to reverse some of the damage and give nature a helping hand to recover. And so it has never been a more important time to treasure our local green spaces.
Some people may know Brackenbed park by its other names – Shroggs Tip, the Ash Tips or Shroggs Valley. Others may remember it from its previous uses as a municipal waste site, or latterly as a recreation sports site which was unfortunately demolished due to the threat of methane. Or perhaps you didn’t know about this hidden gem nestled in the Shroggs valley, sitting discreetly behind the high walls in Pellon and Park ward and the dense tree line in Warley and Central Halifax, a large and beautiful green space, brimming with nature and steeped in history.
Despite its obvious potential and some previous work to install benches and paths five years ago, many areas of Brackenbed Park remain neglected, suffering from heavy littering and fly tipping as well as attracting anti-social behaviour. More recently, community groups have removed over 250 bags of litter from the area, repaired a bench at one of the entrances and cleared years of mud and leaves that had rendered another entrance difficult to navigate. Now the methane has been vented and the area is safe, it would seem an opportune time to begin the work of restoring Brackenbed Park in line with the community’s vision and reclaiming it for community use.
Discover Brackenbed Park event, organised by colleagues from North Halifax Partnership and Halifax Opportunities Trust, aimed to bring people into the space who might not have known about it, or encourage people to come back, and together, imagine a new future and identity for this wonderful asset sitting at the heart of several of our communities.
We were fortunate to have David Glover host a fascinating history walk that led participants from an already well known and loved People’s Park to show just how close it is to Brackenbed Park, and to find out about the history of the surrounding area as well as the history of Brackenbed Park itself. It couldn’t have been a better way to provide a grand entrance to the park, as when turning the corner from the snicket on Pellon Lane across from James Chambers, the group gasped an audible ‘wow’ as the full park came into view.
When the walking party arrived, they were greeted by artist Frank Darnley (and his giant penguin sculpture!) to have a go at creating art from the things found on site such as packets, plastic and cans, highlighting both the issues with littering and reimagining a use for the things that would otherwise go to waste.
Alison Jones, from Halifax Opportunities Trust, offered kite making for families from colourful recycled things. Dan Marham, from North Halifax Partnership hosted a bug finding activity – it was wonderful to see the children really engage with this, excitedly sharing the wide array of different insects they found on site. Dan also brought Tommy and Shellby the Horsefield Tortoises which both the adults and children in attendance enjoyed holding and learning a little bit about the species. Natalie Ratner, also from North Halifax Partnership, was on hand to record people’s thoughts and ideas for the space, helping to imagine how it could be in future.
Leah Greig, from Positive Impact Sports, brought music and sports with lots of people having a go at archery which hinted at the possibilities of bringing sports facilities back to the park. Along with Leah, Charley, from CLT Creations, helped to create a fun party atmosphere with face painting.
To see families engaging in different activities and taking part in this sporting opportunity, utilising the green space it was lovely to see.
Leah says: ‘The potential power of archery in communities to support wellbeing is massive. Archery is not only one of the most inclusive sports, it is also the perfect activity in our socially distant times and there are many benefits to Archery:
- Improves your focus : For mental health, archery provides active meditation, which can improve your mood, and ease anxiety and depression. Because archery requires focus, archers with post-traumatic stress disorder often find relief by practicing. It quiets the mind and helps them focus on something they can control.
- Improves your hand-eye coordination.
- Improves your upper strength.
- Improves your social skills.
- Improves your confidence.
From speaking to the families who attend they showed a key interest of getting the space back in use with different active opportunities such as a park, MUGGA, courts for juniors session such as Netball and Basketball. Additionally, on the back hand of this the Archery session went down a treat as one child in particular mentioned they didn’t like sport however they “really enjoyed the Archery”.
From a sport perspective I believe it’s a matter of urgency to get this space in use again with sporting opportunities for families in the local community. This would have such a positive impact to the local community activity levels. To progress in the right direction, we need to build on the awareness and a clear up of the area (litter pick) before we can formally put sporting activities on for the community to engage with. There are many benefits of Urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery, as they can promote mental and physical health, and reduce morbidity and mortality in urban residents by providing psychological relaxation and stress alleviation, stimulating social cohesion, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air. But most importantly it’s the active element that brings the community together.’
It was fantastic to see people really enjoying the activities and using the space in a different way, helping us all to imagine a different future for Brackenbed Park as place to play, have fun, engage with nature and connect with neighbours and our communities.
Liz Kenny described discovering Brackenbed Park for the first time at the event in an article for the Halifax Directory: ‘Last month, I attended an event that took me to a beautiful, green open space in Halifax that’s steeped in history and full of potential for our wider and local community.
I joined a Saturday morning walking tour that led me from People’s Park, across Park Ward via Queens road and over to a surprising part of the town that I’ve never seen before. I walked down a snicket, just off Pellon Lane opposite Queens road and was rewarded with a WOW moment view over the top of what was Shroggs Tip. It is now open land with park benches and paths.
I returned the next day with my family, we walked the dog there and it was still so lovely.’
Zain Ghani from Staying Well reflected on the event: ‘I attended the Heritage Walk led by David from Calderdale Heritage Walks who was incredibly proficient and detailed in leading the walk. I attended the event at Brackenbed Park which seemed to have gone really well and with lots of people attending. The event had a lovely community feel to it, and of course snacks and treats on offer went down well! It was great to see a range of ages present and an active listening project in capturing local voices on their thoughts about the space. I think the space at Brackenbed Park can be used for various things such as events, physical activity, orienteering, a place of expression and discovery, and more! From a Staying Well perspective, I believe this space can encourage adults to access green spaces to move more, socialise, learn about wildlife and feel part of their local community. There is lots of interesting history about this place and bringing people to share history and displaying this could be a purposeful and mindful activity.’
Some of the ideas imagined for Brackenbed Park included an enclosed dog park, wild flowers and butterflies, cycling tracks, orienteering, sports facilities, a playground or adventure park and a large festival type event.
If you would like to join with other members of the community as part of a group to create a vision for the space and oversee its development, please join the Whatsapp group here: https://chat.whatsapp.com/FMUk1ewhFLdAOeo6mSw3wq or scan the QR code. You can also follow the Facebook page ‘Brackenbed Park’ to keep up to date with developments. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please contact Natalie.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We hope this is just the beginning and look forward to everyone being involved in the next chapter!