Welford Pocket Park
WELFORD POCKET PARK borders the A5199 on the county boundary of Northamptonshire/Leicestershire. The crescent-shaped half-acre of former waste-land initially reserved for road straightening was leased by the Northants County Council to Welford Parish Council in 2000 for 21 years.
The creation of a pocket park included a footbridge over the River Avon which allows for a safe entry point to the village. Pocket parks were the brainchild of Alen Teulon, former NCC Countryside Officer in the 1980s to enable rural populations living in the countryside to enjoy free and safe access to the countryside, participation in conservation of local flora and fauna and quiet enjoyment for all. At his retirement in 1999 there were 71 parks in Northants, more in preparation and spreading throughout the country.
The Grand Opening of the park was in March 2000 when planting had already begun. Now marginal plants edge the pond which immediately after being dug was colonised with damselflies, dragonflies, water beetles, minnows etc. Later on pond dwellers included rare crested newts.
The planting of trees included a grove of silver birch, ash, oak, rowan, cherry and maple trees throughout the park. Extensive planting of bulbs and mostly wildflowers, and the development of a nectar and pollen garden have added to the attractions of the park.
The roadside perimeter hedge, planted by villagers, consists of hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose, hazel etc. It also attracts a variety of wildlife and has become a living memorial of its planting in the year of the Millennium and the Year of Biodiversity. Numerous bird, butterfly and animal life sightings are regularly recorded. Examples of animal life have included badgers, a grass snake, ducks, a muntjak, frogs, tadpoles, newts, minnows, etc. Pictures of local wildlife are regularly displayed on the Pocket Park Notice Board.
The former Pocket Parks Officers service, to which the park is indebted for its advice, help and encouragement, is no longer in existence but limited help is now available from the County Council Countryside Dept. Access to the Pocket Parks Officers service was conditional on the park being managed by local volunteers, including a Parish Council representative.
The Pocket Park consisted, at its inception, of 9 volunteers of whom 4 remain. They have, over the years, been joined by another five people and in April 2017 another couple will be present at the Annual General Meeting and other meetings, as well as working parties. These are held on monthly Sunday mornings throughout the growing season and also on other regular occasions by individuals or smaller groups.
The group was initially financed by grants from the County and Parish Councils. It has arranged fund-raising events and successfully applied for grants from various sources to finance landscaping, tree pruning, re-gravelling of the footpath through the park, seating, pond clearance and other specialised improvement work. The group members also donate plants, shrubs, secretarial services, post and postal expenses, pictures for the notice board, refreshments for working parties, use and operation of specialised equipment, repair work to fixtures, etc. However, the most important donation the Pocket Park Group makes is the time it devotes to maintaining, improving and developing the park. A Northants guide book describes the northern entrance to the village as "a gem of a park".