For many families, a public park is the first place we discovered a love for nature, learned to ride a bike or played football with mum or dad. Our parks and green spaces give children a place to play, let off steam, make new friends and spend precious time with family.

Bath is blessed with some of the UK’s most beautiful parks, and a new organisation is looking to make them even better.

The Bristol & Bath Parks Foundation is a new charity seeking innovative ways of generating funds, encouraging volunteering and supporting communities to improve parks for everyone. It’s inspired by a similar initiative in Bournemouth which has raised over £500,000 of funds since 2015 for community supported projects in parks.

The Foundation launched at the Bath Festival of Nature at the start of this month by asking the question ‘What does your park mean to you and your community?’, with illustrator Sam Church on hand to capture the thoughts of visitors young and old.

Visitor responses indicated the value of green space for our health and wellbeing, as places to explore, meet others and ‘get away from it all’. There were memories of hide and seek, rolling down hills, family picnics and people revelling in the freedom of being outdoors.

There were also conversations with people who already volunteer to keep parks litter free or want to start a park group in their own community. Some of the themes that arose were around the importance of reducing social isolation, tackling climate change and encouraging active, healthy living.

With Council budgets under pressure, this new charity will support aspects of parks that make an extra difference to their communities, whether this is helping to increase access, support health initiatives or enhance well-loved features.

Sue Sanctuary, Project Manager of the Bristol & Bath Parks Foundation, explained, “The Foundation joins a variety of community and Friends of Parks groups wanting to see parks become even better places, and to encourage more people to enjoy the benefits of their local green space.”

Over the next two years, the Foundation aims to identify a range of sites that require improvements or enhancements and launch its first fundraising initiatives. It will begin with a small number of ideas that have the backing of the local community and can capture the imagination of the wider public.

The Foundation will tackle similar themes to those addressed in Bournemouth. For example, it could look at how to improve our parks and preserve their unique features for the benefit of the community and how we can encourage projects that protect nature and wildlife, reduce social isolation and benefit mental and physical wellbeing.

Rob Acton-Campbell, Secretary, Bristol Parks Forum and Trustee of the Foundation, said, “This is a brilliant opportunity to breathe new life into our parks by increasing community engagement and finding new funding sources outside of the local authorities. It’s a model that has proved incredibly successful in Bournemouth, and we look forward to having a similar impact across the beautiful green spaces of Bristol and Bath.

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