Alexandra Park was reccommended in a comment on one of my previous posts, by Sarah who coordinates Parents For Play a fantastic Oldham based charity raising funds for a multisensory indoor play centre. The beautiful weather today persuaded me to make the trip round the M60 – not an inspiring journey at the best of times, and the last time I went to Oldham, Mr Parklover’s car got knicked. So I figured today was a good opportunityto start associating Oldham with something other than a boring motorway journey and a missing Golf. I’m so glad I did because this park is absolutely fantastic.
The local council don’t make it particularly easy to find Alexandra Park, I only saw 1 signpost and that was after I’d already sailed past 1 carpark – lucky that I’m good at memorising maps! However, it is well worth seeking out this stunning park. It had a huge injection of cash a few years ago to give it an overhaul and it reopended in 2004. It can only be described as “grand”. I love that the old original buildings have been restored or adapted rather than scrapped, it really shows what can be acheived with the necessary investment. There are statues, pavillions and shelters of various types at every turn – practical too, as you’d have plenty of places to run to if the weather turned. There are huge expanses of grass and wide pebbly paths. There are some steps, but in most places paths are also available so it’s accessible for buggies and wheelchairs.
There are beautifully kept gardens, bowling greens and tennis courts. A team of gardeners were working on the flower beds which surround one of the fountains. Scaffolding surrounded the observatory, which looks like it has been carefuly restored and was having a coat of paint on its frames.
The playarea is very pleasant and has the elusive paddling pool that I’ve been searching for! It was empty – I hope that’s because it’s October and not because it’s not used any more. Does anyone out there know? The paddling pool with its built in boat forms a barrier between play areas for younger and older children and there’s a toilet block just next to it. This is modern and clean inside, but converted from an original building – it even says “girls” and “boys” on the doors!
After we’d tested out the play area and loos, we went for a look at the large boating lake which is surrounded by plants, paths and fishermen. We stood looking at the ducks and geese – they obviously thought we had brought bread for them, and swam right over to us en masse. “They’ll have to eat the water instead,” CJ suggested helpfully. From here we headed down towards the boathouse cafe and, as if by magic, I found myself inside asking for a whippy cone. CJ and I then sat on a bench by the lake sharing our £1 treat (£1.20 if you want to go crazy and have a flake in as well) before going down to the “shore” type area from where, presumably, boats are launched in summer. CJ busied herself sticking her hands in the dirt and I took the chance to have a little sit down and admire the views.
I found myself reflecting on the effects that all the talk of spending cuts in “the current economic climate” might have on our beloved parks. It concerns me that they will be an easy area to cut back on with little public outcry. This would surely be a travesty. The effects of increased investment in our parks in the last few years have been fantastic – a cursory glance through the categories of this blog will demonstrate a plethora of beautifully kept havens, with state of the art play areas and toilet facilities that you are not scared or repulsed to use. There are people employed as park wardens, park rangers and gardeners, making users feel safer with their presence. The effects of this investment will no doubt be difficult to prove, but are surely numerous. Parks are so important in urban areas, because they just make people’s surroundings and therefore their daily lives, more pleasant. I recently read an article here, which refers to research suggesting many health benefits of living near green spaces. Furthermore, these are areas where all kinds of people come to relax and socialise and they are important for social cohesion. Today we saw everyone from tiny babies to the very elderley, people from many ethnic backgrounds, people on bikes and people in wheelchairs, people chillling out and people running around, all enjoying the facilities.
As the writer of a blog entitled “Parklover” I am clearly biased, but I would hate to see the upkeep of our parks and playgrounds slip, as I firmly believe they have a hugely positive effect on communities and their physical and mental health.They connect people – I rarely visit one without chatting to someone about their dog, or child, or the weather. They can be relaxing or exhilarating, tranquil or buzzing depending on where and when you visit. Most importantly they are free and they are for everyone. They are worth the investment. Alexandra Park, with it’s feeling of grandeur, is a fabulous example of what investment can achieve. I loved it here and will definitely return.