Birkenhead Park volunteer group smash fundraising target

A group of volunteers “looking to make a difference” in the world’s first publicly funded park have raised 13 times their original goal.

The Friends of Birkenhead Park are a group of volunteers working with Wirral Council staff to look after Birkenhead Park which first opened in 1847. The park is sometimes known as the People’s Garden and is the first publicly-funded park in the world.

The park is currently on a tentative shortlist for UNESCO World Heritage status. If it gets this award, the park is expected to get more than 5m visitors a year, up from nearly 2m currently.

To improve the park, the Friends group set up a fundraiser to reach a target of £1,000 which was being match funded by Aviva Community Fund and the Save Our Wild Isles Community Fund. They have now raised a total of £13,340.

The money will go towards improving biodiversity in the park, planting new wildflower meadows, as well as raising income for new equipment to support the Friends in their efforts both in the park and the Edward Kemp community garden.

Graham Arnold, chair of the Friends group, said this was their first experience with crowdfunding and a recognition of both their work and the importance of the park both on the Wirral and nationally.

He said, “It makes it all worthwhile. We are committed to the park. We want to support Wirral Council with the ambition to get World Heritage Status. Obviously as a small volunteer group of a certain age, there is only a certain amount we can do but the important thing is that we are doing it.

“We believe in the park and hopefully we can get more volunteers to join us.”

Mr Arnold said they might now be able to do more work in the park and “bring a bit of colour” back into it but will work closely with Wirral Council staff to ensure no changes impact the park’s chances of getting world heritage status.

He said, “We do not want to do anything with the best intentions that might compromise that inclusion in the list. The first thing we are looking at is a wildflower meadow next to the (Victorian) ticket office. That is in the buffer zone for the proposed World Heritage site so it is not an integral part of the park itself.”

The group is also planning to provide a wildflower meadow on the former bowling green near the Grand Entrance to the park which was recently cleared. In the Edward Kemp garden, the pond area and bog garden have been improved with several large frogs found and improve water supply to all parts of the garden.

Cllr George Davies, who chairs the committee overseeing the park, said the Friends were vital, adding, “People do not understand how much history there is in that park. There are about 50 helpers in the park now and without them I don’t know where we would be. They are vital to the park and they are vital in what we are trying to do in getting the (UNESCO) award.

“I am highly delighted with the park. It’s in beautiful condition and anything that can bring in more cash and more volunteers, I am 100% behind it.”

Image: Friends of Birkenhead Park volunteers. Credit: Edward Barnes

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