A look back on 2020
As we enter into a new year, we decided to take a look back at 2020. The last year has definitely been a challenging one for us all, at The Trust we had to adapt our ways of working, our office environments and our resources and staffing as well as taking a financial hit from the impact of coronavirus. Despite all the challenges we also want to acknowledge some of the positives to come out of the last 12 months for The Parks Trust.
Due to restrictions that were put in place because of the virus, for almost two-thirds of the year, we were unable to run our usual events and activity program, but we were pleased to still be able to safely facilitate 236 events and activities within our parkland.
Julie Dawes, Events and Community Engagement Manager say; ‘Even though we were unable to host the events programme we’d planned in 2020, we were really pleased to be able to host many small events and activities from community litter picks to guided walks. We engaged with many people in 2020, connecting them to our parks, animating the city and highlighting the importance of being out in our green spaces.’
In particular, lockdown restrictions meant that more residents of Milton Keynes than ever have been exploring the parkland on their doorstep. We were pleased to be able to provide some respite for people to get out in the great outdoors and enjoy all that the parkland of Milton Keynes has to offer. With the increase of visitors our team worked tirelessly to maintain these areas for the enjoyment of everyone. We helped with social distancing by mowing the grass along pathways creating more room, we increased the number of Park Rangers patrolling our parkland and we increased our litter picking operation to deal with the huge increase in litter over this time.
Despite the impact on our finances we were able to continue making some investments in our parkland across the city at the start of 2020 we began the construction of a brand-new watersports and café building at Willen Lake. This impressive new building situated at the edge of the lake will be fully accessible, with level access, lifts, accessible toilets and baby change facilities. We will also be upgrading the play areas and once complete, Willen Lake will be home to the biggest free play area in Milton Keynes. With construction still underway the building is due to open in time for our 2021 season.
In June, we were pleased to announce that Grounds Café would be taking on the management of our café at Howe Park Wood. The café, which was fully refurbished, faced some challenges this year but was able to operate a takeaway service which went down very well with people visiting our woodland and the surrounding areas.
The Milton Keynes Rose also had some new additions in 2020, with the engraving of three new pillars commemorating Volunteer’s Week, Refugee Day and Covid-19. Funding for the three new granite pillars was raised via a successful fund-raising campaign and a grant from MK Community Foundation. The new pillars were chosen by the pillar panel, who meet every other year to decide a new pillar engraving from the submissions received from the community group.
In August of 2020 Campbell Park received Grade II listed status from Historic England. Campbell Park was one of only four landscapes in the South East to have been granted this protection in recognition of its historic interest and innovative architectural design.
In September we asked you if you could help your local woodland by collecting acorns from Howe Park, Shenley or Linford Wood and plant them at home or school to grow. This was to help us replace lost and dying trees that are affected with Ash dieback. By the end of 2020, 4,013 acorns had been collected.
For the fourth year in a row, The Parks Trust achieved the Green Flag Award and we are proud to be the first and only organisation to win this award for a whole-city approach rather than an individual park. We were also delighted that our Volunteer, Andrew White, won Green Flag’s Volunteer of the year award for 2020.
In October of 2020 work started on a Jurassic themed adventure golf course, café and public toilets at Furzton Lake. This construction is still ongoing, and the new facilities are due to open in the summer of 2021. Furzton Lake has proved to be a very popular destination for people over the last year and we hope these new additions will improve the visitor experience.
Landscaping works commenced at Great Linford Manor Park in 2020 as we implemented our National Lottery Heritage Fund project to 'Reveal, Revive and Restore' the historic landscape and upgrade public facilities. Having been awarded £3.1m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are restoring elements of the 18th century English Landscape Garden that was laid out by historic owners of the Manor.
In November of last year, we were lucky enough to witness a Long-eared Owl at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve. These beautiful birds were frequent visitors to the site back in the 1980’s but have since been a very rare sight and this is the first Long-eared owl ringed at this location.
We’re hoping in 2021 things start to return to normal, we want to be able to welcome you back to our school sessions, events and activities. We have lots planned but for now we are listening to the government advice and monitoring the restrictions in place. Please keep an eye on our website and social channels, as this is where we will be communicating our events and activities when it is safe to do so.