Newsletter April 2009
The Peoples Park

Most of my working life was spent in the urban setting of East London. During that time several reports were issued by various Church authorities concerning urban regeneration – Faith in the City (1985); The Cities (1997); and Faithful Cities (2005). One issue that these Reports increasingly noted was the essential contribution that green spaces make to the making of a ‘Good City’.

Banbury of course is not a city, but it does have a number of urban characteristics. Whilst it is surrounded by the wonderful green pastures of North Oxfordshire, this does not mean that we can afford to ignore those green areas that have been bequeathed to us by former Banburians.

One of the most important and easily recognised of these is the Peoples Park. The Park was left in trust to the People of Banbury and our Town Council is charged with its stewardship and maintenance. For over 100 years it has provided a place of meeting and recreation as well as a well-worn path from the Horsefair to the Warwick and Bath Roads.

18 months ago a small group from the Banbury U3A (University of the Third Age) decided to set up its own Peoples Park Group whose aim was to explore the Park in its several guises: botanical, historical, social and ecological. These studies demonstrated to ourselves that this was indeed the People’s Park and therefore needed to be ‘owned’ by all of us.

At about the same time, Banbury Town Council decided that as part of its Open spaces stewardship the Children’s Play Area and the Tennis Courts needed refurbishment. To this end, and in order to satisfy legal requirements, a Peoples Park Support Group was set up, consisting in the main of local residents and Council officials. This Group has had several meetings and has been consulted over the various plans for refurbishment and five of the tenders for consideration were recently exhibited in the Town Hall.

The Children’s Play Area is to have a Gulliver’s Travels theme. This will be unique to Banbury and may well become an important icon for Banbury – competing with the Lady and her Horse.

The refurbishment plans include two new Tennis Courts and a Games Court. Your correspondent is seeking support for an idea of his own – a permanent open-air Table Tennis Table. At the time of writing this has not been included, but I would welcome any offers of help to see this included. Banbury has a fine reputation for providing table tennis stars. It would be great to see young and old battling over an iron net in the Park!

In addition to the refurbishment plans the Council also has a wonderful Community Garden in the Park. This has nursery facilities, providing plants for the town and members of the community. Cheshire Home and Frank Wise School have assisted with the work and each year local Primary Schools and the U3A take part in a Planting Bonanza - this year on June 9th. Our own U3A Group has also carried out a tree audit with the help of Council lists.

I personally joined the Civic Society some years ago encouraged by the then Secretary – the late Canon Derek Palmer (who took a great personal interest in the Park and was influential in the Park achieving ‘Green Flag’ status). I hope that the Society will encourage a proper concern and interest for the green areas like The Peoples Park which are so vital in making Banbury a ‘Good Town’
to live in.

John Whitwell.

Incidentally for those interested in Banbury U3A details can be found on their website.