Ford Park Community Group (FPCG) manages a beautiful 8 acre park, its building and grounds as a community amenity. The only large open green space within the town, Ford Park is a much loved, much used parkland, recreational area and venue for the town’s key outdoor events. Situated adjacent to Ulverston East Ward, one of the more deprived in Cumbria, many residents do not have gardens of their own. It’s a valued community resource, important to the people of Ulverston and an important part of Ulverston’s heritage, accessible to the community and visitors alike.
FPCG and the community of Ulverston saved Ford Park in 1998 when Cumbria County Council announced its intention to sell. At that time the site was derelict, buildings were boarded up and deteriorating, grounds were unattended and overgrown, attracting anti-social behaviour. FPCG and volunteers worked hard to repair the buildings for occupation and gradually brought the garden and grounds back into use. We’ve been in the process of restoration and development ever since. We aim to enhance the quality of life for the people of Ulverston and around, providing recreational facilities and a wide range of community based projects, activities and events. In particular, we:
• Manage the grounds and gardens as a public park for the enjoyment of the whole community.
• Support the vulnerable and disabled through activities, training and volunteering opportunities.
• Organise a programme of inclusive educational, cultural and social events, alongside operating and managing community facilities, food growing and environmental projects.
Our Socially Inclusive Volunteering works with a broad range of individuals. Volunteers are predominantly from the Furness area and many of our regular volunteers are vulnerable or have additional needs.
The well-being benefits derived from volunteering are immense, providing volunteers with opportunities to build confidence and self-esteem through developing new skills and positive relationships. A sense of achievement and purpose through maintaining the park, working with the public, raising funds, growing food for the cafe, running events and being in nature all contribute to their welfare.
Volunteering enables individuals to feel valued and they make a significant contribution to the quality of life for local people. Ford Park is a community park and our volunteers are absolutely essential to its existence and upkeep. Without our volunteering we would struggle, as a charity, to keep the park open, safe and enjoyable for the local community. In a time when green space is increasingly under threat, Ford Park is important to community welfare and well-being, it is highly valued as much loved and much used local heritage.
As well as improving the physical, mental and emotional health of our volunteers and the local community, through increased opportunities for exercise and social interaction, our project will have the following outcomes this year:
• Community Orchard established, running alongside an accessible pathway under development from St Mary’s Hospice, creating a greater connection to food growing and the environment, foraging and hedge rowing.
• Increased health and well-being for the local community, physically and mentally. The community will have access to free fruit, improving physical health and the opportunity to spend time in a green space, improving mental health.
• An educational resource, reinforcing the connection between food growing and food eating.
• Attract and recruit new volunteers from Ulverston East Ward, involving them in community orchard development and ongoing maintenance.
• Arboretum developed around front entrance
• Volunteers develop new skills related to orchard/tree management.
• Vulnerable and socially isolated volunteers develop self-confidence and improved well-being.
The extraordinary energy, commitment and dedication demonstrated by the community of Ulverston, our volunteers, members and supporters from the early days when the park was saved, repaired and improved, to their on-going support in keeping the park open and accessible is incredible - and will soon be edible! Ford Park is at the heart of Ulverston - and is so much more than a park.
This funding will enable us to fund our Socially Inclusive Volunteering and continue to maintain this wonderful and essential park.