Blogs and thoughts

Pearson Park, Hull, Landscape Architects were Southern Green Ltd.

Thought of the week from Pippa Reece

In this weeks blog I want to talk about how special parks have been for our communities and the challenges that we have faced to provide that during Covid.
As all of our worlds start to travel into different ‘tiers’ of lockdown once again with Covid restrictions, I have started to think once more about how important parks were to our communities during lockdown last time round and what role they will / should play once again as we travel, over winter, into this ever changing world and the roles that we will, once again play in that.
Parks played a key role in many people’s lives during lockdown, providing safe havens, essential spaces for people to recharge, exercise, get some fresh air, see another human being all though at a distance and for their wellbeing.It has been a privilege to be able to be a part of those teams that have kept our parks open for people to use them when others have closed.This has not been easy and I don’t think this has been reflected in any media or publications that I have seen the challenges that this presented to us to ensure we could still provide that.At one point there was a total of 1/3 of my team non operational. This was either through leave, sickness, isolation or shielding. With added variables of increased sickness, isolation and shielding, there was no way to have any control over this level of staff just not being available. We then also had the added complications of social distancing when we normally share vans in work to travel round to our sites and not being able to share equipment and tools in the usual way that we would do as part of day to day tasks.So without limitless modes of transport, limitless tools and limited staffing numbers how did we go about actually still providing parks in good enough condition for people to use on a daily basis? Parks don’t just ‘look like this’ after all. They come with hard work, with specific skill sets, local knowledge and specialist equipment.
We created the concept of ‘bubbles’ really early on with teams staying together in their own patches and no mixing across the areas of teams. We had to have staff based statically in really limited areas where there are still welfare facilities for them but this only worked for a very short period of time as the work was completed really quickly with that level of focus and dedication to one space (so plan b then?) and only consisted of 4 parks out of 91!!We had to plan tasks totally differently, our schedules were no longer remotely achievable and needed to be totally re thought about and worked through re priorities of tasks as all parks still needed visiting after all, so certain tasks just had to not get done. But which tasks were these? Which would have the lowest impact on day to day and also long term re sports pitches, craft gardening locations and private contracts in the mix of this.We had to view mowers as a vehicle and think about which staff were qualified to use them or not and which staff needed to use them re that level of social distancing needed.Plans then changed again the following week with new rules, new guidance, new details that we needed to think through and adapt to once more.In the early days we needed to check in on each staff member each day to see how they were doing as everyone really struggled with it, so needed to let them know we knew they were there, we supported them and where there for them on the journeys that we have all been on.
I would be lying if I said that this period has not been the most difficult in my working career. The scale of problem solving in an unprecedented world on a daily basis has been immense. The volume of new data needed to be read, understood and then converted into practice has been significant. The hours worked have been mind blowing. The level of support needed to be provided to so many has been eye watering.
BUT, we are still here. Still on this journey and still needing to do this as this starts to ramp up once again.
May we all stick together as ‘parkies’ and share our ideas, our pressures, our solutions and our brains as we transition into whatever this new normal will be.
I for one, will be making sure that I spend some time in my own parks so that I can get some of the nourishment that they provide to others.
Stay safe folks.

 
Philippa Reece

A word from Pippa Reece on Green Flag

In this week’s blog I am going to touch on Green Flag Awards.
Two weeks ago we had a full judging for one of our sites.The park in question has been on an interesting journey over the last 12 plus months as it failed its judging the year before.The staff working in the park have also had  a very interesting journey over the last 12 months.
The failure prompted outrage, shock and concern but most of all a desire to want to understand and do better. As a manager the opportunity to share, to aid learning, to bring a group of employees together with a common goal and seeing a team being created around that has been not only refreshing but also very rewarding. As a team we sat and re wrote the whole management plan, visited site many times, consulted with stakeholders,  brain stormed, dreamed what the art of the possible might be. As a manager to encourage exploration,  opening of horizons, questioning and debate has been challenging when this is not the default working culture. As a manager giving the freedom to then plan, review and implement across multiple teams when this too is not the work culture has also raised its own challenges. The nerves of doing a new thing, wanting to get it right,  needing to get it right and as the depth of knowledge increases, understanding these needs in more detail adds to those feelings for the team. They have flourished. Grown. Supported each other. Worked in tasks they have never done before. Worked across teams. Mobilised others and worked so hard. They are proud of what they have achieved and so they should be. They have transformed this park and the visitor feedback to them has been outstanding and good for them to hear and see their work being appreciated.
So, thank you Green Flag for being the enabler and catalyst for this journey. It’s been tough and It’s been hard work but it’s given focus, direction, energy, passion and pride so it’s been worth every moment of it. We have to strive for goals, to challenge ourselves and resources as this is our working climate and its not going to change for the foreseeable future.
Now, to wait and hope for results the park, the team and community so desperately deserve.

For more information on the Green Flag Award, please go to http://www.greenflagaward.org.uk/

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