Mill and Marsh Meadows have retained their Green Flag status despite a few difficult months of issues with rubbish and abuse by some members of the public.
The official green flag was unveiled this morning with Councillor Kellie Hinton, Chair of the Recreation & Amenities Committee along with Karl Bishop, acting Parks Manager and members of the Park Services team after judging took place in June. Green Flags are given out by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. A Green Flag flying overhead is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent facilities. It’s the equivalent to a blue flag for a beach.
The Meadows were first awarded the Green Flag in 2014 and it is judged and awarded every year either by a personal tour or a mystery judge. Kellie said, “We had a personal tour this year and there was a lot of pressure and it was quite intense with all the issues we have had. The judging isn’t about just showing off the green space it’s about the management too and having procedures and processes in place for every eventuality. We need to show that we have both strong enforcement of rules but at the same time give a warm welcome to the our open space – it’s a hard balance. We’ve achieved this thanks to hard work by boys in the Park Services Team and Becky Walker, Town Open Spaces Officer. It’s also been a difficult year with loss of Gareth Bartle our Parks Manager. Gareth, though over the last 13 years, really laid down a solid foundation that Karl and the team can really build and move forward with. So whilst we are devastated by the loss of Gareth we were really fortunate to have him as long as we did and to be able to continue his legacy.”
Karl Bishop added, “The hardest part in retaining the flag was not having the guidance from Gareth and the long stretch of hot weather has given us extra challenges in trying to keep everything watered and clearing up after the big crowds.”
The two celebration round flower beds this year behind the Toddler playground on the riverside have been planted out with the NHS logo and RAF badge to celebrate their 70th and 100th anniversaries with the help of the gardening buddies.
A reminder that barbecues have been banned on Marsh Meadows and a new Park Security Ranger, Shaun Roberts has been employed to work for an hour each evening to enforce the rules for a trial up to the end of September. New temporary signage at the entrance to Marsh Meadows has also been installed thanks to Dynamic Print Media.
A review of introducing car parking charges at Mill Lane car park was turned down again at the Recreation & Amenities Committee meeting last week. This Council review takes place every two but after there has been evidence found of people fouling in the wooded area on Marsh Meadows the proposal was that the income from the charges could go towards installing temporary toilets during the summer months. Kellie said, “The decision was made as we didn’t want to push people into parking illegally on Mill Lane and causing disturbance to residents there. We want to also assess it to see what times locals use it as we only offer two free car parks and don’t want to take one away without cause.” A meeting with Henley Town Football club is taking place with Council members to discuss the use of their toilet facilities this week.