Devon parks so good they’ve won an award

These are the 24 parks and green spaces in Devon that have been awarded the prestigious Green Flag award for their high standard of quality and cleanliness.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

The national benchmark for quality parks, the Green Flag award is run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.

Each park or open space is judged against set criteria and they need to show improvement every year to be awarded the coveted status.

A record breaking 2,127 green spaces have received the award, and all 24 parks in Devon that that were awarded the Green Flag in 2020 have retained their status, with no new additions to the list

The parks that have been awarded Green Flag status in Devon are:

  • Seaton Wetlands
  • Seafield Gardens, Seaton
  • Manor Gardens, Exmouth
  • Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth
  • Grand Western Canal Country Park, Tiverton
  • Yeo Valley Community Woodland
  • Bicclescombe Park, Ilfracombe
  • Streatham Campus, University of Exeter
  • St Luke’s Campus, University of Exeter
  • The Den, Teignmouth
  • Stover Country Park, Newton Abbot
  • Courtenay Park, Newton Abbot
  • Decoy Country Park, Newton Abbot
  • Homeyards Botanical Gardens, Shaldon
  • Cockington Country Park, Torquay
  • Kingsbridge Recreation Ground
  • Tothill Park, Plymouth
  • Central Park, Plymouth
  • Ham Woods, Plymouth
  • Devonport Park, Plymouth
  • Freedom Fields Park, Plymouth
  • Hoe Park, Plymouth
  • West Hoe Park, Plymouth
  • Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir, Plymouth

Both of Devon County Council’s parks of Stover Country Park and the Grand Western Canal Country Park are among the recipients, with Stover is celebrating its 18th consecutive year of gaining the award, and it’s the 13th year that the Grand Western Canal has attained the international quality mark for parks and green spaces.

Cllr Andrea Davis, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said: “Congratulations to the Country Parks at Stover and the Grand Western Canal for achieving the highest standards for parks once again. Making the grade for environmental standards and visitor facilities is no mean feat and maintaining that for so many years takes an extraordinary effort.

“We have seen during the coronavirus pandemic over the past 18 months that these parks play a vital role in help people maintain their health and wellbeing. It’s been lovely to see lots of new visitors enjoying the parks during the pandemic, and the staff have really stepped up to give a great experience to all the visitors.

“Thanks to the staff and volunteers for their commitment and dedication that has made it possible to retain this prestigious award and provide people with green space that everyone can enjoy. We are extremely fortunate to have both parks and I really love both of these special places.”

Stover Country Park has had a productive year working on the development phase of its Restoring Stover Park project. If successful with its second round application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project will improve the water quality of Stover Lake, conserve historic at-risk buildings, recreate a section of the Serpentine Lake along with new opportunities for public access, and improve community engagement opportunities.

The Grand Western Canal Country Park has had another busy year as local people made use of the park during the covid pandemic. Following the lifting of restrictions, the increase in visitor numbers was sustained as staycations boosted domestic tourism. The Park was also pleased to welcome back the horse-drawn barge in late June after 17 months of not operating during the pandemic.

Cllr Ray Radford, Chair of the Grand Western Canal Joint Advisory Committee, Mid Devon District Councillor for Halberton and County Councillor for Willand and Uffculme, said: “This is fantastic news yet again. The Canal Manager, his support crew and all the volunteers have made this award possible again.

“The Grand Western Canal has been such an asset to our local community during the difficult covid times, and our canal has been widely used. As well as attracting visitors to the canal, it has brought with it revenue for the local economy. The green flag scheme sets a high standard and at the same time provides facilities to create healthy lives.”

Green Flag celebrations at the Grand Western Canal Country Park

Green Flag celebrations at the Grand Western Canal Country Park

Cllr Colin Slade, County Councillor for Tiverton East and Vice Chair of the Grand Western Canal Joint Advisory Committee, added: “I am delighted that the Grand Western Canal has repeated its Green Flag award success, 13 is indeed lucky for some! My congratulations to Canal manager Mark Baker and his team of rangers and volunteers in maintaining this standard of excellence, especially in such difficult times. I personally view the Canal Country Park as the jewel in Tiverton’s crown.”

Stover and the Grand Western Canal join other Green Flag Award winning parks and green spaces as diverse as the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, Woodhouse Park in Peterlee and Chiswick Old Cemetery in London.

Bicclescombe Park in Ilfracombe and Yeo Valley Community Woodland in Barnstaple are celebrating award success again this year, flying the flag for North Devon.

2021 is the 17th consecutive year that Bicclescombe Park has achieved Green Flag status, with Yeo Valley Woodland receiving the award for the 10th time in a row. Both spaces are owned and managed by North Devon Council, with the help of active community groups including the Friends of Yeo Valley Woodland and the Bicclescombe Park User Group.

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, said: “I am proud of our Parks team and community groups who work so hard to maintain these spaces to a high standard and achieve the prestigious Green Flag award for Bicclescombe Park and Yeo Valley year on year.

“I would like to congratulate everyone involved in achieving this award, especially the community groups for all the hours they dedicate to our parks.”

Looking along the Grand Western Canal in Tiverton.

Local ward member for Ilfracombe West, Councillor Geoffrey Fowler, added: “In yet another difficult year where outside space has been a haven for a lot of people, Bicclescombe has come up trumps once again.

“The limited staff, all credit to them, have maintained the park in extremely good condition under the circumstances, as several of our late influx of visitors have testified. Well done to all concerned.”

Ward member for Ilfracombe West, Councillor Netti Pearson, said: “It is great to see the park receive the award once more and is a credit to the park’s team and volunteers.

“We are still experiencing difficult times and it is a joy to stroll through and appreciate the changes through the seasons. Well done to everyone.”

Ward member for Barnstaple, Pilton, Councillor Ian Roome added: “This is an outstanding achievement by North Devon Council officers and the Friends of Yeo Valley Woodland.

“To achieve the Green Flag status is a testament to all their hard work and dedication. Our community can enjoy this beautiful green outdoor space as a result of many hours given by volunteers. It really is one of Barnstaple’s hidden gems.”

If you would like more information about becoming a volunteer at one of these parks, contact the council’s Parks Team on 01271 388326 or email parks@northdevon.gov.uk.

Three University of Exeter campuses have won a coveted Green Flag Award, in recognition of the outstanding quality of their outdoor spaces.

Streatham and St Luke’s campuses in Exeter and the Penryn campus, near Falmouth in Cornwall, are all raising green flags.

David Evans, grounds and operations manager at the University of Exeter, said: “These Green Flag Awards show the standard of custodianship of the University’s outdoor spaces remains at a high standard.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging 12 months dealing with the difficulties of Covid restrictions. However, we learned some important lessons as a team about how to manage outdoor spaces with a lighter touch, and we adopted and developed this approach in significant areas to support biodiversity.

“The achievement of this award is a direct result of all the hard work and effort of the team, and I’m so proud of them all.”

Toby Nenning, head gardener at the Penry Campus, said: ‘We are very pleased to have been awarded the prestigious Green Flag award for the Penryn campus and this conveys the level of care and dedication the team have to the outdoor spaces.

“As for everyone it has been a challenging 18 months, but with the team working throughout the pandemic the site has become a haven for anyone trying to escape the stresses and strains of the modern world, whether it be a walk with the dog, a jog through the grounds or simply to relax in the hammocks within our orchard.

“We are now working hard to protect and increase the biodiversity of the site with an increase in wildflowers, tree planting and organic gardening’

The two Exeter campuses boast 5,274 mature trees, which remove over two tonnes of pollutants each year. The campuses are home sports pitches, an arboretum, Italianate garden, Magnolia lawn, a collection of wild conifers and Azaleas, a cherry orchard and wildflower meadows. The campuses also contain top quality sports pitches for a range of high performance outdoor summer and winter sports and high levels of active participation in sport.

The Penryn campus is made up of historic sub-tropical gardens, with a walled garden, famous Victorian rhododendron collection, Italianate garden, terraces, parkland, orchards, and woodlands which are open to everyone 365 days a year. In the past year, four new sign boards were installed to highlight the spectacular biodiversity of the Penryn grounds.

Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making parks worthy of a Green Flag Award.

“To meet the requirements demanded by the scheme is testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure they have high standards of horticulture, safety and environmental management and are places that support people to live healthy lives.”

Green Flag awards have been retained by East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) for their Manor Gardens in Exmouth, Seafield Gardens in Seaton, and Connaught Garden in Sidmouth, along with Seaton Wetlands nature reserve on the Axe Estuary.

This is the 17th year in a row that this converted award has been awarded to the work at Manor Gardens, Exmouth and with Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens now winning the accolade for 18 years in a row, and now the second year for Seaton’s Seafield Gardens.

Wild East Devon’s Seaton Wetlands first scooped the prestigious award 17 years ago in 2004 and has been flying the flag proudly ever since.

The awards are the result of the hard work of EDDC StreetScene and Countryside teams, helped tremendously by ‘in bloom’ groups and other volunteers.

The Staff and volunteers that work together in East Devon are already busy on exciting new improvements, with plenty of work being undertaken and new projects with thousands of extra bulbs being planted while they work hard to usher in a new eco-friendly way of working.

Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC’s portfolio holder for Coast, Country and Environment, said: “We have now flown the Green Flag over Seaton Wetlands for 17 years.

“The Countryside Team are constantly striving to improve this much-loved nature reserve. It’s been a haven for people, and wildlife, in recent years and there are many exciting new changes being planned for next year, too.

“EDDC has been working hard to make its parks as beautiful as ever but to reduce our carbon footprint as well. We have been concentrating, more on putting in perennial plants that come back bigger and better every year, not only making the gardens look more stunning but also helping our bees and insects thrive, encouraging wildlife and nature to prosper.”

“This saves labour, reduces the need for watering and reduces costs long run, and continues the council’s commitment to both the climate change and biodiversity emergencies.”

EDDC has been focusing on being as green as possible, making spaces look interesting and contemporary – taking inspiration, from other leading gardens and shows like the Chelsea Flower Show where there is a lot of sustainable planting ideas to help save the planet and help reduce the carbon footprint.

It is now the bulb planting season, so the authority’s StreetScene staff have most recently been working hard to plant thousands of bulbs in the three Green Flag gardens, as well as across the wider East Devon area. By selecting flowering bulbs of all shapes, sizes and colours, flowering will continue throughout the different seasons, which pollinators will love – providing them with food when it is scarce.

Residents are being encouraged to look out for EDDC’s grand bulbs – “Fritillaria imperialis”– which have large orange flowers on top of a very long one-metre stem that will emerge across East Devon in late spring.

Staff have also been working on nurturing our more mature perennial plants and will soon be working on planting a great many new trees throughout the district.

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of green spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.

In celebration of this year’s announcement, Green Flag Award is asking buildings and monuments around the UK to #GoGreenForParks today to show appreciation for the spaces that mean so much to people.

Green Flag Award Scheme Manager Paul Todd said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making these parks worthy of a Green Flag Award. To meet the requirements demanded by the scheme is testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure they have high standards of horticulture, safety and environmental management and are places that support people to live healthy lives.”

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of green spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.

In celebration of this year’s announcement, Green Flag Award is asking buildings and monuments around the UK to #GoGreenForParks today to show appreciation for the spaces that mean so much to people.

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