Dawberry Fields Park – Consultation and Engagement

This is third blog from Helen the BOSF Volunteer Coordinator working with the community Dawberry Fields Park as part of the Future Parks Accelerator Project.

So, Dawberry Fields is getting on the map at last. At 55 years old I’m tweeting, Instagram posting and sending messages and pictures out on Facebook. All trying to raise Dawberry Field’s and the sense of an ‘us’ profile a little, amongst other parks, groups and green activities in the area. All skills I previously didn’t really have. At time of writing (end of May), we’ve got 91 followers on Twitter and 80 on Instagram. Is this good? I’ve really
no idea, but I think from nothing at all, the fact that people are taking notice, has to be a positive step on our journey.

Time to become more visible in the park itself and attract more attention. The first of the three dates we had decided upon was now approaching and the thinking was – to cope with COVID restrictions of no more than 30 in a group outside – to have a drop by bunting session! This got laughed at in my team meeting, but I was determined that we needed to do something to engage local interest and make the park feel more of a community space. Also, to leave something behind in the park for people to see afterwards.

Of course, we all know that unfortunately there are some park users that appear in late evenings leaving behind graffiti and rubbish and they might take a shine to a string of pretty triangles blowing in the breeze – still, we decided not to let that put us off.
In addition to this, my forest school lady was keen to compliment the activity with stone painting and agreed to provide all the equipment to carry this out as an additional activity. Keeping the children, or adults occupied for a while would mean we could chat about the park and their interests and observations.

Prior to the approaching bunting day my colleague at Ward End Park, with the same volunteer coordinator role as me, popped over to see ‘my’ park. Whilst there, he helped me check my bright red coloured cord was long enough to stretch across the grey railings at the top of the field – to mount the bunting on. All good. I expected some comment or advice, but he kept quiet. Perhaps bemused by my plans. All the same, I was grateful of his

I was starting to feel that the group was coming together perhaps? I emailed round and tried to arrange a zoom meeting to discuss future plans on forming a group (as still not allowed for many to meet indoors). It was tricky, everyone had commitments. I ended up with only two attendees. A bit of a flop then. I felt deflated, I’d obviously got the vibe totally wrong. The following morning heralded emails of apology from 3 people who were so sorry to miss the meeting and wanted to be included. This buoyed me somewhat. The spark is lit…. it needs a lot of careful nurturing and not perhaps, the bull at a gate meeting approach! I think I knew that really. I should trust my gut feeling more.

The posters for the bunting day went up at the beginning of the second week of May, along with a nature poster about tree identification – keeping up the interest on the notice boards. We tweeted and were retweeted (yay!) and someone put us on the local next-door app to – which I had previously not considered. All praise to them for getting us noticed across wider Birmingham. Saturday May 29th approached…. And the weather was still rubbish….. what to do? Everyone expects May to be nice and sunny and warm, but the chance of rain was high. After a couple of calls to try and secure a Territorial Army tent, as they are based just up the road, (wouldn’t that have been fab?!), failed as they weren’t available; I found an old gazebo in my garage that would do the trick. Cut to the punchline, after a drizzly start the morning brightened and we ended up using the gazebo as a sun
shade! Bless our British weather, eh?

Prior to our big day (well, the anticipation felt big!), we had two further litter picks, one accompanied by our local Park Ranger. The Saturday attendance saw 15 pickers and we cleared one of the entrances as well as a section of the stream. Much laughter at a few ‘odd’ discoveries – I’m too polite to share with you here.

The Monday before the bunting day I was again chuffed to find that a small but keen couple of people were prepared to make the effort to come out and ‘make things nice’ (and safe), ready for the weekend. On the day, the three volunteers that agreed to support the event were organised and enthusiastic. We got set up and watched the drizzle turn to blue sky. I feel this event cemented the engagement and support of 4 individuals – one of whom wasn’t even there! She had to work and sent her husband to provide tables and help. I
see that as true commitment!

We think we had about 10 families visit during the 5 ish hours we were there. Some came back to do more. One family took bunting away and came back with it beautifully decorated an hour later (grandad and the dog needed to get home for a rest). We had a young couple, viewing houses to buy in the area, sit and paint stones whilst they took in the surroundings of what might become their local park! I reckon we sold them that house on the community spirit they felt that morning! Wish we could find out! I did get to consult more formally with 4 families and their interest and enthusiasm for the park and wanting to take part, was encouraging.

The bunting lasted a week before it was all pulled down. But, that’s not the end of the story at all – No! More bunting has been made and is planned to be made. Group members are rallying. They are buying and making pretty things to display in their park for all to see. They love the visible positivity in their park. The community feel is growing and we do have a group of interested, enthusiastic, wonderful people. We may not have formalised it yet, but the volunteering community is growing itself a ‘friends’ group’ – slowly.

Follow us on Facebook: @DawberryFields

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