Community Games sees the turnaround of Walkers Heath Park, Birmingham
After years of neglect, Walkers Heath Park, Birmingham, has been transformed from a forgotten wasteland to a thriving part of the community. A Community Games took place on Saturday 19 May to help to reconnect local people with this great recreational asset.
Walkers Heath, on the south side of Birmingham, has faced years of neglect. Set up in the 1960s as a recreation ground for the Kings Norton Three Estates (Pool Farm, Primrose and Hawkesley) and Druids Heath which are located nearby, it once boasted such facilities as a long jump, rugby pitch, basketball and tennis courts, agility equipment and even a miniature Golf course.
By the 2000s however, these facilities had disappeared, and the Park was used merely by dog walkers or as a cut through on the school run. With no benches or bins, and barely legible signage, the Park had fallen into disuse; it has become known as ‘The Forgotten Park’.
Headed by Richard Page and Leanne Youngson, a group of residents decided to do something to make the Park a thriving part of the community once more. They set up the Friends of Walkers Heath Park in November 2011, a group representing all kinds of people living nearby – pensioners, students, the unemployed and people balancing work with family.
The Friends have become a catalyst in putting Walkers Heath Park back at the heart of the community. They have won support from two sets of ward councillors and the authorities, pursuading Birmingham City Council to re-name the Park, install £3000 worth of new bins and create new signage. They have even been promised a Community Orchard from Quadron, the Park’s maintenance contractors.
The park has recently been earmarked for £50,000 of repairs (from Central Government funding) and there will be at least two Community Space Challenge intergenerational projects at the park over the next twelve months with Catch22, a local charity working with disadvantaged young people on the Three Estates. These are the Community Orchard, learning the ancient art of hedge laying and Geocaching.
The next step is to re-engage local people with the Park and get them involved in its development, and this is where Community Games comes in.
The Walkers Heath Park Community Games was the first big event hosted by the Friends, aimed at all the community.
There was an opening and closing ceremony, and events including archery, football, rounders, tug-of-war, volleyball/tennis, British Military Fitness and bike polo as well as traditional sports day event for the small children. Netball proved to be one of the popular activities on the day, with 17 people signing up for ongoing 'Back to Netball' sessions.
During the Community Games the Friends asked people what they would like to see put into the Park as a legacy of the day, anything from facilities to a sculpture to more benches as well as what activities and sports they want to see happening there.