‘We’re doing this to stay alive’: Popular Northampton village park fighting for survival due to pandemic

A pocket park that is a hub for a local community is fighting to survive after an event that is its main source of income has been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Boughton Pocket Park, in Howard Lane, has been run by a voluntary committee for 43 years and still provides the village and surrounding areas such as Obelisk Rise with much-needed play equipment for children and plenty of green space for families to enjoy.

Each year the upkeep of the park, including mowing and equipment maintenance, costs more than £6,000.

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The park has ample play equipment for children to enjoy. Photo: Nicky Callis Photography 2020

Usually the bonfire and firework evening, which normally attracts around 2,000 people, along with other small fundraising events, raise enough to cover the upkeep costs, however due to the pandemic, the events cannot take place this year.

Chair of the committee, Karen Fletcher, said: “We don’t receive any funding from any council or Government agency.

“It’s run entirely by a small voluntary committee of hard working mums and dads who have full time jobs and families.

“I’ve been part of the committee for five years, and every year the bonfire makes between £5,000-£6,000, which covers our costs and it’s happy days.

The park has given families a place to meet up safely during the pandemic. Photo: Nicky Callis Photography 2020

“But we can’t have one this year so we have no money coming in.

“We have a legal responsibility to keep the park equipment fit for use, which we take very seriously, but it comes at a cost.

“We could not bother to mow the grass, but we don’t want to as it would make it hard for the kids to play football.”

The committee has launched a Crowdfunder to help cover this year’s costs to avoid what Karen has described as ‘unpalatable’ alternatives.

Any spare money from the Crowdfunder could be used to help the pond flourish. Photo: Nicky Callis Photography 2020

If the funds are not raised, Karen is concerned that the park would be sold for development within 18 months.

She added: “If we do not fulfill our health and safety requirements we will have to close the park.

“Taking out the equipment or selling the land are other options that are unpalatable.

“If we could just get all of the 2,000 people who attend the bonfire to donate a couple of quid, we’d be able to keep ourselves going.

“We’re not in this to make any money, we’re in it to keep alive, so if we raise more money than we need we will reduce the ticket cost for next year or use it to help the pond area flourish.”

If the park was forced to change or close completely, it would be a huge blow for the whole community.

The committee works closely with the local primary school and the pupils plant bulbs there every year and come back to visit their plants regularly.

Karen is also aware that the open space has been a huge help for families during lockdown.

“It has been so popular this year and has been vital throughout lockdown,” Karen continued.

“We’ve seen loads of socially distanced picnics and it’s perfect for people to meet safely. The park has been used so well.

“We’ve never seen so much life there before. Even on a rainy day, there will be people there.”

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