Hannah Worthington, Torbay Green Spaces development officer for Groundwork South, continues her reflections on why green spaces matter more than ever, looking at their links with the past and how we can help make sure they flourish now and in the future

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Places to play, exercise, socialise or educate - the Victorian creators of Britain’s urban parks understood the impact access to green spaces had on communities and while we may no longer have the same levels and types of industry, our parks are as important as ever to keeping today’s communities healthy.

Although not Victorian, Kitson Park in Shiphay does have a connection with this period, being named after Major R F Kitson whose family owned the site and whose ancestor William Kitson, known as ‘The Maker of Torquay’, did so much to transform the town in Victorian times.

Today a large apple tree stands as reminder that the park was created from part of the original 17th century Shiphay Manor’s orchard.

Across Torbay, small neighbourhood green spaces like Kitson sit waiting.

Hidden away behind back gardens and unobtrusive entrances, so that even locals may not know they’re there, parks like this are in danger of falling out of use by the wider community, left to serve as cut-throughs or hangouts.

However, the Covid-19 crisis has resulted in many of us looking closer to home for our exercise, a place to play with our children, or a space to escape from stress and worries that surround us day-to-day.

And so Kitson is one of many green spaces that are waking up...

Helping the park from its slumber is a group of like-minded people who want to make Kitson a welcoming, safe and enjoyable space for their community.

Supported by the local Community Partnership, Groundwork South and Torbay Community Development Trust. the group is planning community clean-ups, activities like a ‘Get Moving’ low-impact exercise group for less mobile members of the community and events and trails to encourage younger children to take an interest in caring for the park.

There are also plans for an afternoon of performances to help bridge the ‘social-distance’ that the community have been feeling recently.

But to make any of this happen they need you to get involved! Get in touch via ‘Kitson Park’ facebook group or email hannah.worthington@groundwork.org.uk and help make a difference to where you live.