Events taking place across the UK and wider world these last few months have brought home how important it is for us to learn from the past; to acknowledge what has happened and to take these lessons with us into the future.

Deer parks were more common hundreds of years ago, but venison would have been too expensive for most people’s menus. Photo: Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors?(CC BY-SA 2.0)Deer parks were more common hundreds of years ago, but venison would have been too expensive for most people’s menus. Photo: Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors?(CC BY-SA 2.0)

So, what of the history of our parks and green spaces? What will we decide we want to take forward as we work to secure their future and how will we shape these places so everyone can benefit from them?

At around the time of the Norman Conquest ‘park’ would have referred to a deer park; an enclosed area where deer were kept as livestock - venison being an expensive meat.

Over the following centuries, park came to mean an area of land that a wealthy landowner would have created and used for recreation, a way of displaying their wealth and power.

There was even a word for describing the creation of a park: emparking.

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It is generally agreed that it was the Victorians who democratised parks, recreating them as spaces for urban populations to exercise, remove themselves from the everyday strain of hard, industrial work and better themselves through participating in more ‘genteel’ recreational pastimes.

It is clear that parks were an important part of communities in the past and it’s perhaps this that we should take forward.

However, unlike in the era of the wealthy landowner no one should be excluded from today’s parks; and in contrast to Victorian parks these spaces should help people improve their lives in ways that are meaningful to them.

Torbay Green Spaces Forum brings together green space groups from across the Bay. It gives everyone the opportunity to ensure an inclusive present for our parks and green spaces – not just in terms of physical access, but the facilities offered, their appeal and interest and their cultural relevance as well.

Voices from across our diverse community must be heard to secure a sustainable future for our green spaces, one that meets all our needs.

To find out more about Torbay Green Spaces Forum, contact Hannah Worthington on 07940510616 or email hannah.worthington@groundwork.org.uk