Community spirit is beginning to transform the future of a Lancaster park, despite alarming incidents of violence and vandalism there over recent weeks.
Ambitious plans are in the pipeline to strengthen Ryelands Park’s position as a focal point for the community, and create a “big back garden” with hard work already starting to pay off.
But the aspirations of The Friends of Ryelands Park are being hampered by recent incidents and a “stigma” attached to the area.
On Sunday June 2, a 13-year-old girl was attacked by four other girls who ran off as a member of the public approached them.
Police are still appealing for witnesses to come foward following the assault which took place at 3.30pm.
Just days earlier, vandals wreaked havoc at a brand new play area inside the park, pulling up turf and rubber matting, and burying stones and sticks in the sandpit.
It is costing the city council hundreds of pounds to put right.
The play area, which cost around £45,000 to build with funding from United Utilities and the Groundwork charity, is due to open officially on June 20.
The Rev Sandra Jones, from The Friends of Ryelands Park, said it was disappointing that the play area had been vandalised, but that the group was determined to change people’s perceptions.
She said: “There is a stigma attached to the park but we want to change that.
“The park is a focal point for two communities and we want to create a safe place where people can bring their children, walk their dogs, take part in activities, and feel a sense of ownership.
“We’re trying to create a big back garden for the community, it’s important and of value, and it’s a beautiful place.”
The group’s plans include creating space for fitness activities, new lighting, bringing the flower beds back into use, building vegetable boxes, and opening up overgrown footpaths, as well as organising community events and festivals.
Volunteers have been busy over the weekend planting flowers and plants, and work to fix the roof of an outbuilding, called The Old Man’s Rest, has now been completed.
Two years ago, the city council met with nearby residents to find out what they’d like to see happen in the area, and improvements to Ryelands Park was top of the list.
As a result, The Friends group was formed.
The park was given to the residents of Lancaster by Lord Ashton, whose family home was Ryelands House.
The building is now used for a number of different community and health services.
The Ryelands Park scheme is being supported by Transform Your Patch, a partnership between environmental regeneration charity Groundwork and drinks brands Britvic and PepsiCo.
The Friends are working on the project, which has been identified as a flagship scheme by Groundwork, alongside Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council.
Sandra said: “There’s a lot of heritage in Ryelands Park, and we want to make the most of it.
“A national cycle route passes through it so we’d like to make more of this as well.
“There’s a whole mass of plans that have been drawn up, and we’re currently trying to access funding, and getting together a volunteer group that is prepared to get their hands dirty.”
The group meets on Tuesday evenings at 6.30pm at Father’s House Church in Owen Road.