We've maintained all benches in the park since 2011
It had been apparent for many years that benches in the park were deteriorating and some were in need of more than the normal routine maintenance that they sometimes received from the council. So in the spring of 2011 the Friends of Marple Memorial Park conducted a survey of benches in the park to identify the extent of the problem and to develop an action plan for dealing with the outcome.
The survey revealed that many of the benches had been donated by families and friends in memory of a loved one, which is something that we felt was important not to lose. We therefore developed a policy of repair and refurbishment only for any existing commemorative benches but with the possibility of adoption and replacement of non-commemorative benches. We decided to encourage adoption wherever possible in preference to new commemorative benches being installed in the park.
Current Park Bench Situation
Since the article below was written we are pleased to advise that every non-commemorative bench in the park has been adopted, refurbished or replaced by Friends of the Park with help from members of the public and all benches continue to be cared for by the Group as part of our annual routine maintenance. We have been instrumental in the addition of several brand new commemorative benches in the park over recent years that were sponsored by local families.
We have also been responsible for finding sponsorship and refurbishing all of the Town Centre benches on Market Street, Derby Way and the Hollins between 2016 - 2019 and we continue to maintain these annually too.
No more room for new benches in the park at this time
One unfortunate outcome of this success is that we have had to agreed with the council that there is no more room for further new benches in the park for the immediate future.
We have tried to find alternative ways for families to remember a loved one in the park but we have so far been unable to agree anything with the council as they are concerned with taking on maintenance responsibilities if the Friends group folds.
There are potential changes being considered in the park in relation to the building of a new "Community Hub" to replace the library and the swimming pool. If this goes ahead it may generate the opportunity to site new benches in the park.
Waiting list for three benches to be replaced
There are 3 very old commemorative benches in the park dating from 1988, 1992 and 1993 that will eventually need to be replaced but it is not our intention to replace them until we can no longer maintain them.
In 2018/19 we spent 12 months seeking the original donors to satisfy the council's policy to do so before replacing an existing commemorative bench. We found the original donors of one bench, and this family will be given first refusal when their bench needs to be renewed. We also have a waiting list of 8 families interested in replacing the other two benches in due course.
You may contact us with regard to going on a waiting list for replacing the three benches, or a for new benches if the opportunity arises in the future. We are sorry that this is all we can offer at the current time.
Park Bench Refurbishment and Adoption / Replacement
Our survey conducted in March 2011 revealed that there are 33 benches in the park, excluding the 3 all-metal ones inside the Infants Play Area. 23 of the benches are commemorative but 10 of them are not. Of the non-commemorative benches, 1 needed to be replaced and 7 were candidates for adoption and refurbishment or to be replaced with new benches.
Our plan is to maintain and refurbish the existing commemorative benches as required, if possible with the help of the families who donated them in the first place. If one of your relatives has a commemorative bench in the park and you would like to make a contribution towards its upkeep, then please get in touch with us to discuss this. Obviously we will also welcome donations from anyone else for this purpose too.
The council and the Friends are occasionally approached by members of the public about new commemorative benches being placed in the park. At the present time we would like to encourage these people to adopt an existing non-commemorative bench and pay for its refurbishment, or in some cases to replace them with a new one. Adoption of an existing bench would mean paying for new hardwood timber and a plaque. We are in the fortunate position to have access via one of our members to a professional workshop and we are able to refurbish benches at little more than the cost of materials.
Since the survey we made huge progress and many local families have helped us to achieve our aim of adopting and refurbishing all benches in the park.
Some of our successes
Benches No. 21, 22 and 23 on the Central Pathway through the Park
Patrick, one of our members, has developed a great enthusiasm for this particular project and he's determined to try and complete refurbishment of all the benches this year. He's certainly doing a fantastic job and on 13 and 26 May he completed three of the benches on the central pathway. These are dedicated to Ellen Greenfield, Pamela Holloway and Walter and Gladys Moon respectively and were installed in the park around 1998. As with the other of this design, a few hours graft have completely transformed their appearance. Well done to Patrick and the others who have given him a hand when he needed it.
Bench commemorating Ellen Greenfield before and after refurbishment.
Bench donated by Pamela Holloway before and after refurbishment.
(photo was taken before the arms were refitted)
Bench commemorating Walter and Gladys Moon before and after refurbishment.
Benches No. 09 near Teen Area and No. 11 next to the Shuttle Stone
During our mid May 2012 Task Day another two benches donated by Woodville Elderly Persons' Home in 1998 were stripped down, sanded and re-treated. Once again, the results of a few hours graft and application of some proper preservative have given these two oak slatted benches a fantastic new least of life.
Woodville Elderly Persons' Home bench near the Teen Area before and after refurbishment.
Woodville Elderly Persons' Home bench near the Shuttle Stone before and after refurbishment.
Benches No. 01 and No. 03 Southeast of the Bowling Green
During our end of March 2012 Task Day two more benches were stripped down, sanded and re-treated. Both of the benches are commemorative, one in memory of James and Louisa Parry installed in 2003 and the other in memory of Woodville Elderly Persons' Home that was installed in 1998. After stripping off the old flaking preservative and getting back to the original timber we were delighted to discover that the slats were made of Oak and have weathered pretty well despite the lack of regular care.
The bench Commemorating James and Louisa Parry before and after refurbishment.
The bench commemorating Woodville Elderly Persons' Home before and after refurbishment.
Bench Seat on drive into the park (near Co-Op steps)
Almost unnoticed in the bushes near to the steps from the park to the Co-Op were two concrete stumps that once had a wooden seat on them. We're not sure how long it is since the seat went missing but it is certainly many years.
Towards the end of 2011 we were approached by retired builder Alan Proctor, who volunteered his skills to refurbish this long forgotten seat. When this was mentioned to local tree surgeon David Myers of Myers Tree Care he kindly offered to donate a superb piece of Ash that was from a tree felled locally. After several weeks of labouring in his garage Alan was ready with a bespoke seat tailor-made to fit the old concrete stumps and we were delighted to help him fit it in March 2012.
As this excellent new seat cost us nothing more than the price of a few new screws we were delighted to purchase a plaque acknowledging Alan and David's generous contribution to our park that has been fitted to it.
Alan Proctor at work and sitting down on the job with Mark Whittaker from FOMMP.
Bench No. 06 - Bowling Green Southeast
There are three large cast-iron and timber seats very close to the bowling green all of which are in need of some TLC. None of them are commemorative and this presents a great opportunity for adoption.
We approached Marple Business Forum and explained that there was an opportunity to adopt one of these benches by paying for it to be refurbished. MBF generously donated the money that we needed to purchase new hardwood timber and a plaque and the bench was collected and transported to our workshop in January. After stripping it down a local company based at Wood Farm called Marple Blasting kindly sand-blasted and primed the cast-iron section for us free of charge. The bench was then reconstructed in the workshop using brand new hardwood, a plaque was fitted to acknowledge Marple Business Forum's sponsorship and the bench was returned to the park in March 2012.
The cast-iron bench before and after refurbishment sponsored by Marple Business Forum.
Bench No. 02 - Bowling Green Southwest
This bench near to the bowling green was an ugly concrete-framed bench in poor condition with timbers that were badly rotten and heavily graffitied. Being non-commemorative, it was also a strong candidate for replacement as it was in a prime location.
When we were approached by the family of Harold Kay about a new bench in the park we showed them this one and were very pleased when they agreed to fund a replacement in Harold's memory. The Kay family chose a substantial bench from one of the council approved suppliers that we showed them and made a donation to the Friends of the Park to cover the cost. We took care of ordering it through the council and removed the old concrete bench during one of our task days. The Parks and Recreation Team made a great job of installing the new bench in March 2012.
The old concrete bench and the new one dedicated to the late Harold Kay.
It will be interesting to see this bench mature as it is made of solid Iroko hardwood that can be supplied treated or untreated. After researching what would be the best thing to do we decided to follow recommendations not to treat it. In the untreated condition it should gradually turn a light-grey colour as the timber weathers and matures but never need maintenance.
Bench No. 12 - Sensory Garden
The Sensory Garden was created by the Lions in Millennium year, so the bench is now 12 years old and it was looking rather the worse for wear. However, we were delighted to discover that underneath the fungus and remains of the horribly cheap and nasty water-based "preservative" that has been applied to it in the past, was a really good quality hardwood.
During our February 2012 Task Day the slats were all individually removed and sanded by Friends of the Park Patrick O'Herlihy and David Myers of Myers Tree Care, who brought along his own belt sanders for this purpose. The slats were then treated with a quality preservative and refitted, transforming the bench and making it so much more inviting to sit on.
The Sensory Garden Bench before and after refurbishment.
Bench No. 07 - South of Bowling Green
This bench is dedicated to Peter McFall, who passed away in 1998. The McFall family contacted us in October 2011 to ask how they could contribute towards the maintenance of Mac's Bench. We explained our plans to refurbish all the park benches and suggested that a donation of £50 to Friends of Marple Memorial Park would help us to purchase the materials required for Mac's bench and others. The McFall family went way beyond our suggestion and donated £150 to help us look after the park, which as far as we were concerned raised it right to the top of our priority list!
The slats from Mac's bench were removed during our November 2011 task day and sent to our workshop to be skimmed and we also jet-washed the metal frames and the paving slab base. The slats were re-machined, sanded and treated during December and reinstalled on our December 2011 task day. We must say that we're very impressed with the grain that was revealed on the solid oak slats and pleased that the refurbishment of Mac's bench has exceeded our expectations.
Mac's Bench before and after refurbishment.
Bench No. 16 - Junior Play Area
This steel framed bench located between the Junior Play Area and path running past the library was sound but in need of extensive sanding and treatment to protect it against further decline. As a non-commemorative bench it was a prime candidate for adoption and when we were approached by the family of Ann Tait who were interested in a bench to commemorate her life we suggested this as a suitable option.
The Tait family decided to go ahead with adoption of this bench and made a donation to the Friends of the Park to cover the cost of refurbishing the bench with all new Iroko hardwood timber stats. The family arranged and paid for the plaque themselves and everything was fitted and treated by the Friends of the Park volunteers in September 2011.
The bench before and after being refurbished and dedicated to Ann Tait.
Bench No. 17 - Junior Play Area
This concrete framed bench with wooden slats located between the Junior Play Area and the Park Cottage was in very poor condition and being non-commemorative, was our top priority for replacement.
We were approached by the family of Les and Bette Pye about a bench in the park and after showing them the opportunities for adoption and replacement we were pleased when they agreed to replace bench no. 17 with a new one. The family chose a bench from one of the council approved suppliers and made a donation to the Friends of the Park to cover the cost. We took care of ordering it through the council and removed the old concrete bench during one of our task days. The new one dedicated to Les and Bette was installed free of charge by the Parks Team in October 2011.
The old concrete bench, left, and the new one dedicated to Les and Bette Pye.