Article - The River Blog

Bog garden completes transformation of Sands Recreation Ground

Author: Jeanette Dyson
Categories: Projects, Wildlife

Transforming Sands Recreation Ground

The creation of a bog garden at Sands Recreation Ground, Holmfirth, marks the end of our 3-year project – costing in excess of £25,000 – to renovate this popular green space. Below you can find out what we’ve achieved and why.

Better for people and wildlife

Sands Recreation Ground in Holmfirth is a large area of relatively flat, publicly accessible open greenspace. It’s close to the river and Holmfirth swimming pool and has a skatepark, football field and children’s playground.

Back in 2017, our research showed that local people felt the area was a ‘dark part of the valley’ and was barely used for resting and relaxing by the river. Trustee Lynva Russell explained:

“The area beyond the white bridge at Sands was originally intended to be a caravan site but over time it became waterlogged and unsuitable for camping. Eventually it was colonized by invasive non-native species including Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed. In the winter it was often too muddy to walk near the river. There was no seating and access for wheelchairs and pushchairs was almost impossible. As a result, although our research showed that people valued the outdoor space, they rarely used the area for recreation.”

With more and more scientific research, highlighting the link between access to green and blue spaces and good mental health, we could see the potential that Sands offered. By creating the right environment and facilities, it could provide people with a place to connect with wildlife and relax beside the river.

Working towards a bigger picture

Together with Dan Eustance, Director of Coolgreen Landscape Consultancy we outlined a vision of how Sands Recreation Ground could benefit people and wildlife.

“Sands is part of a bigger picture, linking work we’ve completed along the river from Bottoms Mill to Spa Wood. In effect, we’re creating off-road links that take people from Hinchcliffe Mill through to the edge of Huddersfield Town Centre and beyond,” explained Dan.

“It also encourages people to come out into the countryside from the town centre. Huddersfield has a thriving student population, we want to encourage them to explore the outlying areas of Huddersfield. As well as encouraging more people to connect with nature and wildlife, it also has the potential to boost our village economies.”

The new path and benches at Sands Recreation Ground

Working together

We secured funding from Cobbett Environmental Ltd, on behalf of the Landfill Communities Fund and from Kirklees Council, and set about transforming the area.

Volunteers including those from partner organisations carried out river clean-ups and removed litter and invasive species from the riverbanks and surrounding areas. Holmfirth Women’s Institute planted an orchard on the site and, in 2017, with permission from Kirklees Council, the area was drained and a wheelchair accessible all-weather path was created alongside the river.

In 2019, a noticeboard was installed by the white bridge, and benches were relocated from the Duck Feeding area in Holmfirth and placed at intervals along the path facing the river. Dan’s attention to detail made sure that the benches were off-set to allow wheelchairs and pushchairs to be placed at the side of the seating area.

While funding was provided for the capital projects, volunteers held a charity cake day, which together with funds from calendar sales, raised more than £2,000 to refurbish the white bridge.

The last piece of the jigsaw

This summer (2020) saw the finishing touches added to the Sands project, in the form of a bog garden at the far side of the white bridge. Dan explained:

“Water runs off the banking and into the river. By creating a clay ‘bund’ that acts as a natural dam we’ve created a wetland area. This shows how minimal intervention using natural materials can have a real impact on biodiversity and encourage wildlife to thrive.”

Kirklees Council Parks Department provided the earth-moving equipment and volunteers planted a range of native plant species that will thrive in the different conditions provided by the bog. Wild grasses, mixed with oxeye daisy, betony and knapweed that thrive in clay soils were planted in the drier banking areas. In the area that will become the wetland, ragged robin, water avens and meadowsweet were sown, while the deeper pond area has a mixture of yellow iris, water mint and marsh marigold, all of which will attract pollinators when they flower next year.

Successful partnerships

“The work at Sands Recreation Ground has transformed the area and resulted in another successful partnership project between River Holme Connections and Kirklees Council Parks Department. When the seeds germinate, they’ll provide the habitat needed to encourage wetland flora and fauna. This will provide an additional point of interest for users of the park,” said Andy Wickham, Kirklees Council Volunteer Coordinator.

It’s starting to happen….

Visitors to Sands regularly use the path and seating areas. By the time spring arrives, the bog garden will be established, providing a delightful display of native flowers for everyone to enjoy. In the meantime, the garden has already proved a hit with the locals, with toads moving in to secure the best of the new wetland real estate.

Bog garden awaiting rain and seedlings to sprout

The new residents!

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