Westminster Park (the green space, not the housing estate!)
From the Spring of 2021, as Covid 19 lockdown conditions allowed, a growing group of volunteers began to meet at the park for a couple of hours on a Wednesday morning. These working parties are a sub-group of the Friends of Westminster Park. Many parks and green spaces now have a Friends Group taking an interest in their patch and supporting the CWAC park staff.
We began with clearing and planting some of the more formal beds near the café. Then pruning and clearing overgrown hedges and copses. The brambles and woodland on the site of the former council nurseries and greenhouses on the city side of the park presented both an opportunity and a challenge. We began to manage the hedges and clear the undergrowth, to let in more light and create space. Using the chippings from the material cleared, we made paths through the woodland, making it more accessible and inviting to people big and small.
Two of us took up the invitation from Chester Zoo for 4 days training to become Wildlife Champions. We learned about nurturing local plants, invertebrates, birds, bats, amphibians, and small mammals, and how to create habitats to protect and sustain them. We also learned about engaging and sustaining the interest and sense of ownership of local adults and children in their green space. The Zoo has an ambitious programme of Nature Recovery, growing and linking green spaces around Ellesmere Port and Chester.
We have tried to extend and seal the small shallow pond or scrape near the woods, hoping to keep some water in it throughout the year. Our clay puddling efforts are not up to those of the canal navvies! But we are still working on it, and have plans to plant a willow fence around it, and create a sand and pebble beach.
We have set up bird boxes and bat boxes, palette habitats for invertebrates, and miner bee high rises. And a Story Den for just sitting among the trees. We have planted bulbs, and scattered wildflower seed, making a gloriously colourful river of flowers this summer.
In 2022, two more of our volunteers completed the Wildlife Champion training. The Zoo then offered a hedge laying course, taken up by one of us, to join the already experienced hedge layers in the group. Hedgerows are such important habitats for local wildlife. There are 506,000 miles of hedgerow in the UK, making it the biggest nature reserve in the country! A diverse and well-managed hedge provides food and shelter for so many species. Winter is the ideal time for cutting and laying hedges, and we have plans to transform some of ours in the park.
Each green space in our community, no matter how big or small, formal or untamed, contributes to the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our planet. They are green lungs, sucking up pollution and carbon dioxide. They are important sanctuaries for the otherwise dwindling populations of birds, insects, and other creatures. They are good for our souls!
New volunteers are always very welcome. We meet near the park café area at 10 am every Wednesday. You don’t have to come every week, or to stay for the full 2 hours…but you might just find that you want to!