Public parks have become an established part of British culture. Most adults have memories of playing on swings, slides and roundabouts when they were children. While children today are making their own memories at their local park. Although they are now a firm part of our local communities, public parks are a relatively new concept.
Public park origins
A local green space that could be enjoyed by members of the public is mainly a Victorian invention. During the Victorian era the industrial revolution meant that many people were living in expanding cities. They had very little contact with the countryside. To counteract this, plus to feed into the public’s desire to be closer to nature, large parks were landscaped. They were then opened to the public as a place where they could walk and enjoy the countryside. And all without having to leave the city too! Many of the features of Victorian parks, such as green spaces, fountains, boating lakes and tennis courts can be still seen in parks today.
Growth of local parks
In the first half of the 20th Century, as urban areas continued to expand, an increasing number of smaller local parks began to open. The 1920s saw a large number of new parks, while even during the depression years of the 1930s councils still invested money into public spaces. These parks followed a similar design to Victorian parks but also started to include more play areas for children. They also expanded the facilities they offered.
Re-building and investment
Post war Britain saw the re-emergence of public parks. Many public spaces had been destroyed or seriously damaged during the war. Money was then invested in recreating or improving parks. As well as this, people once again visited parks as a place to escape urban living. They viewed them as leisure spaces! The idea of parks being a place of leisure was encouraged by local authorities, for example from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s several London parks featured sculpture exhibitions during the summer months.
1970s and 1980s
The 1970s and 1980s saw a lack of funding into local parks, as a result many became run-down and even considered no-go areas by local residents. These decades saw a dramatic decline in public parks and many park facilities, such as cafes, began to close while play equipment became worn down and badly maintained.
During the 1990s local communities began reinvesting in parks and many renovation projects started at this time to re-establish parks as a family-friendly environment. Onsite facilities began to reopen and money was invested in new play equipment. This was boosted by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has spent Â£640 million on renovating 700 parks across the UK since 1996.
Today parks are considered by residents and authorities alike as an important part of local communities. Play equipment has evolved to become more safe and fun for children. While many parks have introduced outdoor gym equipment to create public fitness spaces. Alongside traditional tennis courts, new sports equipment have been installed such as basketball courts.
Public parks are now centres of leisure and sports activities, where all age groups can go to enjoy using state-of-the-art facilities for free.
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