Hannah Worthington, Torbay Green Spaces Development Officer for Groundwork South, continues her reflections on why green spaces matter more than ever, and the people and planning involved in helping ensure they are looked after

Stoodley Knowle Meadow in July this year, with wildflowers in bloom. Photo: Groundwork SouthStoodley Knowle Meadow in July this year, with wildflowers in bloom. Photo: Groundwork South

On a sunny September afternoon in Torbay, just down the road from where the ‘Fawlty Towers’ hotel stood, Stoodley Knowle presents the almost quintessential English park.

Children play on the swings, parents observing from nearby picnic benches; a few retired couples circumnavigate the meadow, throwing balls for their dogs; some young friends are conducting an after-school bug hunt, looking for beetles, ants and woodlice.

But Stoodley has a secret underground, quite literally, because the Victorians built a network of brick drainage culverts across the valley bottom - possibly in an attempt to reduce the winter waterlogging that occurred, and still does.

Unfortunately, the discovery of this ‘archaeology’ in 2012 forced the football and cricket pitches out to pasture, as it meant the heavy modern machinery used to mow the site could no longer operate safely.

You could take this as a lesson: when it comes to caring for Green Spaces it’s important to look beneath the surface.

Peel back the layers and you find out how people use the space and why it’s important to them; look closer and you start to understand the wildlife it may be home to.

This is just what a group of local residents did, with the outcomes testament to the power of community.

Since 2014, the Friends of Stoodley Knowle have supported, won funding for or actively helped to establish a wildflower meadow, convert the changing rooms into a seasonal café, set up a children’s club, install play equipment, plant trees and more; volunteering more than 2,000 hours in the process.

Groundwork South is now working with the Friends to develop a Green Space Action Plan for Stoodley, as a way of bringing together the community’s ideas and aspirations for the site with the day-to-day maintenance and long-term management provided by Torbay Council.

Experience shows that action plans help identify what’s needed, wanted and importantly, what is realistic. They provide a focus and a means of making sure that the right support is there, that the Friends, council and community know what’s going on and everyone has a chance to get involved.

To find out more about Stoodley Knowle or other Green Space groups in Torbay, contact Hannah Worthington on 07940 510616 or email hannah.worthington@groundwork.org.uk