• Time and tide 11 June 2018 | View comments

  • 11th June 2018 | By David Jolley

    June has come to mean Big Lunch in the life of John Leigh Park – we began the habit in 2014 as we started a more active group again in response to Trafford’s decision to close the aviary because of austerity funding cuts. That first Lunch launched a Friends group which now has over 230 members.

    Last year was the centenary of the park, which we celebrated with a march and other re-livings of activities which occurred when the land was first made available to the people of Altrincham. Our visitors last year included two grandchildren of Sir John Leigh. This year was 101 – a more modest but wonderfully successful day. This is the tenth year that the Eden Project has supported Big Lunch. Its ambition is to encourage people to make time and find a space just to be together, with food, to appreciate each other and their local community. It works so well – people of all ages and backgrounds having fun in an old fashioned way. Our event was scheduled 11am – 4pm but some stayed on until 9pm. It confirms a solid base which is as old as history, and we must keep doing it.

    The very next day we were visited by assessors of the Green Flag Scheme – national standards for parks and green spaces. Setting standards and receiving visitors who have depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for what parks are about and their potential, is a brilliant model – transferable, of course and transferred, to other settings including services of all sorts.

    Austerity has weakened us in many ways and I am keen to see the damage it has done reversed by a return to more responsible and equitable funding and use of wealth. But necessity has encouraged different developments and the growth and flourishing of Friends of Parks is one good example – working as complements to what is done by councils – and sometimes private sector agencies which have taken on major responsibilities for services. The essence of Friends is that they are local – they have sound roots and care. I hope we can use this model and the learning which comes from it, to strengthen and enrich services for older people, including those with dementia and other mental health problems.

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