The Friends of Ilkley Riverside Parks (FOIRP) have had a busy summer of toil and achievement in Ilkley’s Riverside Parks as the photos show.
“We are aware it’s been a tough time for everyone during the Pandemic”, said Ed Duguid, Chair of the Friends group. “However, our mission has always been to improve the Park areas so all visitors from far or near can enjoy them at their best. We hope in a small way we have contributed to people’s enjoyment of the Parks this summer, making them feel a little better”. So what exactly have they been doing?
“People may recall they started off the summer by refurbishing the Memorial area at Riverside Gardens. This was reported in the media earlier in the summer. Volunteers came back as soon as “Lockdown” was lifted and started working hard in the Park areas twice a week throughout the summer. A safe working procedure was agreed with the Council. Work Parties are organised by Doug and Glynis Mowat and Ed, and advertised to followers each week, now nearly 100 contacts and 900 followers on Facebook!
“You’d see them on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings every week” said Ed, “We now have an amazing number of regular volunteers. Some like to Litter Pick and keep the areas clean and tidy and the areas are now looking great. We believe we have the “The Oldest Pickers in Town” in Beryl and Roy, who put us all to shame. We also have a dedicated team of volunteers in Charles, Paul and Peter, who edge the paths making them look smart and also wider! We also have another team led by Doug and Ed, who have been renovating the benches and bins, sanding them down and re-staining them, combined with a small group of keen horticulturists in Glynis, Claire, Bridget and Tony who have been looking after the flowerbeds and the area around the Riverside Hotel, which has been transformed and many people regularly sit around and chat in the sunshine when it happens (socially distanced of course!). The benches were worn and the wood beginning to rot away and the bins were rusted and worn out and looked terrible. Some were installed as a donation from the then Ilkley Festival in 1989! Now they look almost new. There is also our specialist coppicing team under Mark’s guidance, which have been trimming back overgrown trees and saplings which have until now obscured views of the river.
A special mention has to be made of our dynamic duo, the two Georgie’s, two fantastic teenagers who appear at one time or other in all these activities and have encouraged more of their friends to join us. So much so that we are now able to start up a Youth section. We hope they will be the future of the “Friends” when the rest of us have gone out to pasture!
It is always dangerous name check people and there are many more that join us from time to time when they are free, including Nicola, John, Judith, Steve, Christine, Anne and many others. They are all fantastic people who think about the common good and give their time freely. Without them we couldn’t do the job!”
FOIRP, who work closely with the Council’s Parks Team, have also struck up a partnership with the Council’s Countryside Service, who have helped training them in the safe use of power tools and have lent their assistance to Power wash both the Steps and Platform area in the Riverside Gardens, giving a fresh ambience to the area. The Railings there, which no longer had any paint on them after many years of being weather beaten, are now repainted and looking very smart.
During the year the group was also closely involved in negotiations with both Councils on tackling the issues which arose in the Park post Lockdown when the weather was very hot. More signage, more patrols by Council Wardens, greater Police presence and more collections of litter and bigger bins resulted from a joint effort by all. “We thank our Deputy Chair, Pauline Munro, for keeping the pressure on all parties and giving them the benefit of her legal knowledge!” said Ed.
FOIRP are now developing an extensive wildflower area at the top of Riverside Gardens with the Council to increase biodiversity and add much colour to the Park. As a first step the grass was allowed to grow longer this summer then cut in preparation for the sowing of some wildflower for next summer. “ It was great to see so many volunteers come down to help harvest the grass and remove it prior to the sowing of the seeds”, said Ed
And it does stop there. Before the summer, FOIRP negotiated several entrance improvements with the Council. The work started then stopped as a result of the pandemic. However, the entrances at East and West Holme Fields were completed to make them safer to use and the new pathway into Riverside Gardens will be completed soon. New signage which is “a bit more inspiring” will be installed as soon as the Pathway is completed. A NEW LOOK for 2021!
Talking about 2021, the group have applied for grants to improve the Embankment area at the Steps entrance to Riverside Gardens and have some Landscape Gardeners looking at some options to make this a real feature of the Park as you enter, with lots of colour the whole year round and fewer weeds!
And of course the general maintenance and litter picking will continue and more work will be done on Wildflower area and trees which have been removed, having fallen with the storms will be replaced and some additional varieties introduced. “There will also be, we hope, new Tree and Nature Trails for children to follow”, said Ed, “And of course, we are keen to get the playground project back on track with support from the Council. Our goal is to have a brand new Playground with up to date and safe equipment to meet the needs of different age groups.
“We have lots of plans to make Ilkley Riverside Parks a great place to come for all age groups”.
If you have any questions or ideas about the parks, you can contact them via the website or email the Ed the Chair of FOIRP at: firstname.lastname@example.org