It was labelled the ‘field of dreams.’
A small voluntary group of Garstang residents coming together with a vision to transform a local playing field into a first-class multi-purpose leisure and cultural base for both local families and visitors to the market town.
With fierce ambition, a relentless drive for fundraising and support of the town council and local organisations, the determined bunch have revamped and developed Kepple Lane Park into an award-winning facility for all ages, recently receiving royal approval from the Queen herself.
It is a case, says trustee Gordon Harter, one of the pioneers behind the scheme, of ‘hard work paying off.’
In just eight years the handful of trustees of Kepple Lane Park have turned a former refuse site into a family facility boasting a toddler playground, a play area for five to nine-year-olds, two sensory gardens, an outdoor gym/trim trail, a community orchard, a community veg bed, a performance stage, a bog garden, tranquil seating areas, a youth shelter, a willow walk-way, picnic tables and sports facilities including basketball hoop and football nets. Last month the trustees, including town councillors Gordon Harter and Joe Gilmour, Joan Baptie, Andy Brown and Annette Brown, were honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
Gordon says: “We are just absolutely delighted to have received this award. It has been a lot of hard work but we cannot underestimate the support of the town council and the numerous groups and individuals who have helped get us to where we are. It has been incredible.”
It was 2007 when Gordon and a fellow town councillor Phil Sutcliffe first put forward plans to convert the brown site, owned by the town council, into a multi-purpose leisure site. Following numerous meetings and consultations with residents, police, schools, churches, youth groups, Wyre Council and Lancashire County Council, the green light was given for the first phase of work in late 2011. The whole project to date has seen an investment of £160,000
Much of the work was made possible by community grants and a range of sponsorship including Lancashire Environmental Fund to the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fun.
Gordon says the park now has 30 sponsors in total.
Today the park boasts two Green Partnership Awards, the Green Flag Award, and a Wyre Together Award.
Gordon adds: “Whether it has been £50, £1,000 or £10,000, we have been so grateful how people have come to value the park, not to mention the many man hours of real support people have given to the project, which easily could have cost us another £50,000.
“The Town Council was just fantastic in really believing in the scheme and Lancashire County Council, who put together the final design, we have today. We did a lot of the donkey work but it couldn’t have come together without the support of some fantastic people.”
The ground work was carried out by local firms now including Garden Inspirations, of Cockerham, who helped design and build a sensory garden and open air stage area and shrubs and plants were donated by a number of organisations.
The stage is set to undergo further development with plans in place to add power to the area for further use. The work is set to be completed by September.
In 2014, the trust hosted their first open event, launching the Kepple Lane Park family fun day, it has now become an annual event.
Kepple Lane Park Trust will receive the award from the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire at Lancashire County Hall on July 4.
For more information on the park visit http://www.kepple.btck.co.uk