Saving the Flowerbeds from being Grassed Over

10 years on, in 2021, we can rejoice in this success!

In 2011, when we learned that the Council planned to save money by grassing over the flowerbeds in our park, we campaigned to stop this and adopted them ourselves. We raised funds to re-plant them with perennial plants, also receiving many plants donated by the public, and did all the work with volunteers. We also persuaded the local Allotment Association to adopt a couple of the beds and they now grow fruit and vegetables in the park for the public to help themselves.

We understand that we were the only group in Stockport that managed to stop our flowerbeds being grassed over. Here's how they looked in summer 2019:

We have since also taken over the management and maintenance of the War Memorial beds, all other flowerbeds in the park and most of the shrub beds too. We are always getting compliments about how good the park looks and often receive donations from the public to help us keep on top of things.

Possibly Friends of the Park's most important achievement

Here's the story as written at the time...

In February 2011 the Friends of Marple Memorial Park learnt that Stockport Council were planning to grass over the flowerbeds in local parks throughout the borough to save money in response to government budget cuts. The council's plan for Memorial Park was to reduce the existing ten ornamental flowerbeds between Hollins House and the War Memorial to just three.

Thankfully the Friends were able to negotiate a "stay of execution" for the seven flowerbeds that were destined to be grassed over for at least a year. This agreement with the council has allowed us to adopt the beds and gave us time to seek the support of the local community to help us plant them with herbaceous shrubs, perennials and bulbs to prevent them being lost forever. 10 years later, in 2021, we can rejoice in this success!

The council's plan for saving money was to grass over the flowerbeds

Flowerbeds in Marple Memorial Park

The council’s cost saving plan for the flowerbeds in Marple Memorial Park was to keep the main circular bed with the birdbath at its centre and just two of the others - one either side of the path running from Hollins House towards the war memorial (numbers 1, 2 and 3 in the diagram). The remaining seven ornamental beds shown in white were to be grassed over in order to save money.

Having convinced the council to hold off grassing over the beds, the Friends have also agreed that some of them can be put to a different use, including the growing of vegetables. Following this two of the beds were offered to Marple Beavers and Marple Rainbow groups to grow a mix of plants and vegetables and to maintain the beds themselves.

Leaders of both groups responded enthusiastically and the Beavers took on bed number 5 and the Rainbows bed number 4 on the plan. We looked forward to some interesting contributions from both teams, who had some great ideas, and hoped the children would enjoy getting more involved in the park.

The three flowerbeds that were to be kept by the council were to be planted up by them with herbaceous shrubs, perennial plants and bulbs so that it is no longer necessary to replant them once or twice each year, as has been the case in years gone by. The remaining five beds were to be planted to match these three but will be funded, planted and maintained by the Friends of the Park.

The budget cost for planting a bed with herbaceous shrubs, perennials and bulbs in the same way as planned by the council was £250 - £300 each, giving a total cost for the five beds of £1,250 to £1,500. The Friends of the Park had sufficient funds in place to do this but it would have made a big dent in our reserves, so we decided to seek help from a variety of sources for additional money to recover these costs wherever possible.

An Area Flexibility Fund application was made to Marple Area Committee asking for £600 towards the cost of plants for two of the beds and this was considered by the committee at their next meeting on 2nd March 2011. In the meantime, in order to achieve the benefits of bulk ordering, the Friends asked the council to provide an accurate price for the supply of plants and shrubs for the five adopted beds so that they can be ordered at the same time as those for the three beds being done by them.

In order to encourage donations from a variety of sources it was proposed to install a discrete low wooden rail in one of the beds that can be used to display engraved plaques as an acknowledgement of contributions. This would also present an opportunity for donations to be made in memory of a loved one, in a similar way that benches have been donated to the park in the past. [Unfortunately the council stopped us doing this and there has only ever been one plaque installed in the circular bed.]

Having set all this in motion we now needed the support of the local community to help us to succeed. If you, or an organisation you represent can help with a donation towards the cost of planting and maintaining the beds then we would be delighted to hear from you. Perhaps even more importantly, if you can spare an hour or two on the last Saturday of each month to help us with preparation and planting of the beds, and the many other tasks in the park, then we would love to welcome you as a Friend of the Park.

Update 6 March 2011

Unfortunately the weather wasn't very helpful for our February Task Day but we were at least able to redefine the borders of the adopted beds so they no longer looked like they'd been flattened. Hopefully we will catch up during March!

It was too wet to do much with the beds but we did manage to do a bit of work on them.

Better news is that on Wednesday 2 March Marple Area Committee approved our application for £600 towards the cost of planting up the adopted beds, which means we have two of the five covered already. Our local Councillors expressed strong support for the plans to save the beds and our other activities in the park, which was much appreciated.

We are currently waiting for details of the council's planting scheme using shrubs and perennials and confirmation of the costs. We look forward to having more news soon.

Update 1 May 2011

We're still waiting for delivery of the full complement of shrubs and perennials ordered through the council for the flowerbeds that we have adopted but with the current period of hot dry weather it is perhaps just as well that they've not been planted yet. It's hoped that we'll be able to do this during May but we need some rain to give them a chance to get established.

You can see how dry the beds are in this close-up - we need some rain!

On the funding front, with the support of local residents from Queen's Court we made a grant application to Stockport Homes Community fund for £1,000 towards the cost of planting the beds. If successful we will have covered the costs of the first phase of planting the beds permanently. We hope to learn Stockport Homes' decision in a couple of months time.

Update 28 May 2011

AT LAST a large amount of plants had arrived just in time for our May task day, although still not all of them. However, there were enough to make a good start on planting up of our five adopted flowerbeds and with a very good turnout of volunteers there were plenty of willing hands to share the workload. The council had made good progress on the planting of their own three flower beds earlier in the week and the Rainbows and Beavers have also got stuck into theirs so all around things are suddenly looking much better. When the remaining plants are delivered it should not be too hard to get finished and we now just need a decent amount of rain to give everything a good watering in.

Well done to all the volunteers who worked so hard today!

We have also learned that the Rainbows were successful in obtaining a grant of £150 from Marple Area Committee to help with their adopted bed.

Update 30 October 2011

After yesterday's task day when we weeded and tidied our adopted ornamental flowerbeds and planted some new spring bulbs in them it seems a good time to update this page once again. We had an excellent response from local volunteers to help with the beds and they have done a fantastic job of planting, weeding and maintaining them throughout the year. We've received numerous compliments from people passing through the park while we've been looking after them, and this has been very encouraging too. It clearly shows that the Friends of the Park were right to try and save the beds and that the community has noticed what we are doing and supports our efforts.

Friends of the Park working in their flowerbeds Friends of the Park working in their flowerbeds

The Beaver's and Rainbow's beds have been a great success too and we hope that they have been eating the vegetables they've been growing this year and will take care of their adopted beds next year too. We are pleased to advise that our efforts to cover the £1,500 cost of the plants for the beds have been successful.

Earlier this year, after obtaining a £600 grant from Marple Area Committee, we made an application to Stockport Homes for £1,000 towards the planting costs. The application was supported by two local residents of Stockport Homes properties and was reviewed by a panel of their customers in both Marple and Brinnington. We were pleased to learn that they voted unanimously for us to be given the money and it was received recently. Our application included for a contribution of £50 each to the Beavers and Rainbows to spend on their beds too.

Whilst we've had a great response from volunteers to help in the park, we can never have too much help, so if you can spare an hour or two on the last Saturday of the month, or at any other time of the week please come and join us.