Friends’ backing for ‘oasis park’

A GROUP of volunteers determined to maintain a century old park as the ‘green lungs’ of one of Ashington’s most densely populated communities have been successful with their first funding application.

The Friends of Hirst Park have used a grant from the Woodland Trust to purchase and plant – with the help of local scouts – 105 new trees in the flower and play park.

Opened nearly 100 years ago Hirst Park is bordered on all sides by hundreds of homes, many of which have small or indeed no gardens of their own.

Consequently it has been described as a ‘green oasis’ and one of the jewels in Ashington’s crown.

Over the years Hirst Park has helped Ashington win numerous Northumbria in Bloom awards and two years ago received a prestigious Green Flag given by the Civic Trust.

The park is now maintained by Northumberland County Council but an enthusiastic ‘friends group’ has recently been established to give local people the chance to play their part in maintaining and developing it as an asset.

The group is headed by American-born Lisa Surtees, who moved to the UK 13 years ago and is now settled in Ashington where she lives with her partner Joe, a park attendant.

“When I first saw Hirst Park I couldn’t believe that there was such a wonderful amenity in the midst of a heavily built-up area,” she said.

“It provides fantastic amenities for people of all ages and when you are sitting in the park, walking around enjoying its floral displays, playing sport or using the play facilities it is just an oasis of peace and tranquillity.”

Nearly 30 people of all ages have signed up to be ‘friends’ of the park and they are keen to get involved in developing its amenities and organising events for local people.

“We have just succeeded in gaining our first funding from the Woodlands Trust and with the help of the council and local scouts we have planted new trees around the park,” said Lisa.

Next month the ‘Friends’ are planning a formal launch of their group when they hope more people will be encouraged to join.

The event is being themed as an ‘Alice in Northumberland’ day and there will be a host of activities for people of all ages to enjoy.

“We have had tremendous support from the Council and from people like Jenny Tindale at the Wansbeck CVS, to establish our group and we are determined to do all we can to make Hirst Park a continuing amenity for the people of Ashington,” added Lisa.