In only our 5th year as an independent charity, we’re still shaping our foundations as custodians of the 33 parks and over 60 allotments we look after across the city. 2023 has seen some of our proudest achievements yet!
It’s been another busy year here at Urban Green Newcastle.
In only our 5th year as an independent charity, we’re still shaping our foundations as custodians of the 33 parks and over 60 allotments we look after across the city.
We’ve embarked on some fantastic collaborative projects, made progress in caring for our environment with the completion of 18.2 hectares of new pollinator friendly grassland, seen some BIG birthdays and had 5,500 hours logged by our wonderful volunteers.
We caught up with our small and dedicated team to hear about their biggest achievements of the year and some exciting plans for the New Year ahead. Keep reading to find out more…
A look at the ranger team’s 2023…
A successful year for our ranger team has seen progress on more sustainable and environmentally supportive maintenance throughout the parks…
Here at Urban Green Newcastle, we’re passionate about helping in the fight against climate change, ensuring that the city’s parks and allotments are managed in a way which benefits wildlife, conserves our rich heritage, and reduces pollution.
We kicked off the year with the culmination of the Beelines North East project in partnership with Northumberland Wildlife Trust. Funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, this project engaged local communities in activities to protect and improve habitat for pollinators across Newcastle’s green spaces.
By the time this project came to a close earlier in 2023, we had planted 27,000 native bulbs, worked alongside 150 new volunteers and 13 community groups, engaged with 16 schools and planted over 3.5k trees!
This campaign asks individuals, farmers and organisations not to mow grass and lawns for the duration of May. This is to allow nectar-rich wildflowers such as dandelions, daisies, and buttercups to flower, ensuring bees and other pollinators have access to the pollen and nectar they need once they come out of hibernation.
We reduced mowing in all the parks in our care this year, supporting richer and more friendly habitats for those all important early pollinators. Currently under review to improve our approach, No Mow May is something we’re excited to be participating in again in 2024. Why not join us in helping the bees by holding back from cutting your grass for the month too?
Sadly, 2023 has not been without it’s challenges…
With 200-300 burnt out bins reported across the year, approximately 1 burnt out vehicle per week, over £86,000 worth of damage caused by anti-social behaviour and arson and £150,000 spent on litter in 2023 across the 33 parks, our rangers certainly don’t have an easy task on their hands.
This year alone, we received 18,099 public reports. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who supported us in being eyes and ears in the parks.
We are pleased to have formed new friendships in 2023 that are helping to tackle the consequences of anti-social behaviour.
This year a brand new piece of play equipment, voted for by members of the local community, has been installed in Elswick Park play area.
The new multiplay, complete with two slides, replaces previous equipment that was set on fire in an arson attack.
Can you help us get over the line to our £20k target?
Kickstarted by Northern Lights Newcastle, with generous contributions from other park users such as Noughty 90’s, we’ve only got approximately £4k left to reach our goal to repair Leazes Park’s play area as a 150th birthday present to the park.
Ranger resolutions for 2024…
- Our ranger team have been working hard on an inherited backlog of tree works over the last 4 years. We have invested a whopping £0.5million to complete these works and are now moving to ongoing maintenance of the trees across the estate in 2024.
- We will be focusing on horticultural standards in 2024. As we welcome two new community gardeners to our team, we’re looking forward to making good use of their skills and knowledge across the parks.
- We are continuing to work in partnership with the North East Community Forest and others to increase tree planting across the city in 2024.
- Finally, we’d like to see a reduction in the amount of litter across the city’s green spaces. Can you help us? Taking your litter home with you makes ALL the difference in keeping the parks safe and beautiful, discouraging pesky rats AND giving our ranger team more time and funds to focus on more of the good stuff! If you’d like to get more hands on in helping us tackle litter, why not volunteer as part of Urban Green Clean?
A look at our volunteers’ 2023…
It’s been another fantastic year for volunteering throughout the parks. We’ve hosted many sessions, from our regular work alongside Good Gym Newcastle, to forming new friendships with corporate groups such as the Sage Foundation, Accenture, the NHS and Tesco Bank, and even sessions where all the Urban Green Team came together to muck-in!
- Introducing ranger led sessions across an additional 5 parks in 2023; Paddy Freemans, Leazes, Exhibition, Harbottle and Heaton Park.
- Starting weekend ranger led sessions to open up further opportunities for those wishing to join us.
- Putting plans in place for Community Gardening Horticulture Sessions to commence in 2024 in Leazes, Summerhill, Walker, Exhibition Park and Jesmond Dene.
- Logging a total of over 5,500 volunteer hours across the parks and Pets Corner this year.
We’d like to say a HUGE thank you to all of you who have joined us in our mission to make Newcastle’s parks places to be proud of. Thinking of a new resolution for yourself in 2024? Why not take a look at our volunteering opportunities? The perfect chance to give back to your community and the environment, make new friends, learn new skills and all whilst reaping the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors and beautiful green spaces on your doorstop.
We’re also looking forward to introducing more opportunities across Urban Green Newcastle to get involved through volunteering in 2024, in particular with the introduction of a number of Cafe volunteering roles.
A look at sport in the parks in 2023…
We’re proud to have secured funding for a variety of sports projects throughout 2023, in particular…
Funding secured to improve football pitches in Walker and Paddy Freeman’s Parks
Thanks to £67,840 funding from the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation, we’re growing local football talent here in Newcastle over the next 6 years by beginning to update and improve the football pitches in Walker Park and Paddy Freeman’s Park.
The grant ensures local football teams in the city can partner with us to access high quality pitches for training and games, and local communities can continue to access green spaces to enjoy football and other sports.
Since the work started in 2023, we’ve already seen an increase in participation in the sport due to the investment in the facilities. Junior football is already up by 50% at Walker Park and over 100% at Paddy Freemans park with the partnerships developed.
Park tennis courts in Newcastle refurbishment begins through Government and LTA ‘Parks Tennis Project’ funding
Thanks to a new partnership formed this year between Urban Green Newcastle, Newcastle City Council and the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), seven park tennis venues – Armstrong Park, Elswick Park, Exhibition Park, Gosforth Central Park, Leazes Park, Nuns Moor Park, and Paddy Freeman’s Park – are being renovated as part of a £188,000 investment to refurbish public park tennis courts in Newcastle.
You can find our FAQs and read more about the new #ParksTennisProject via the button below.
Tyne Riverside and Walker Riverside cycleway refurbishments
Thanks to collaboration with Sustrans, 2023 has seen the refurbishment of two cycleways at Tyne Riverside and Walker Riverside parks that form part of the popular Hadrian’s Cycleway route.
The improvement works have been carried out as part of Sustrans’ UK-wide programme to create ‘Paths for Everyone’ along the National Cycle Network, helping more people to walk and cycle.
As well as upgrading the surface to make it a more enjoyable experience for people using the route, we have widened the path too. The new hardstone surface provides more grip than a standard tarmac finish, meaning it’s better for horse riders, as well as other users. It also features an innovative tree route protection system so the trees are cared for at the same time.
We’ve rebuilt and reinforced areas of the riverbank, improved drainage along the traffic-free path, and planted more vegetation and wildflowers.
New Park Runs in 2023
This year we were pleased to support the Friends of Denton Dene as they introduced a new Park Run.
Parkrun is a collection of 5-kilometre events for walkers, runners and volunteers that take place every Saturday morning at more than 2,000 locations in 22 countries across five continents.
Not only is it a great way to get active, but a really important activity that brings communities together with the opportunity to meet new people.
We met with Cllr Rob Higgins earlier this year as part of a celebration of #LoveParks Week to find out a bit more about the Friends of Group’s work in Denton Dene.
A look at events in the parks in 2023…
Newcastle Allotment & Garden Show 2023
This September we brought back the Newcastle Allotment & Garden Show to Leazes Park.
With special guests such as Mark Ridsdill Smith, a stunning array of entries and an exciting turn out of local traders, this year’s show turned out to be a real treat for the whole family!
Located in the heart of the city, and right on the doorstep of the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Great North Children’s Hospital— both sites of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust — this year we opened the doors to Springbank Pavilion to the public again.
We partnered with Newcastle Hospitals Charity, and their Arts Programme, allowing this space to host creative wellbeing sessions.
We hosted workshops from the wonderful Gem Arts, Curious Arts and Chilli Studios and are working on plans for the programme to return in 2024. With many thanks to the LGA Foundation and Community Foundation for their support in refurbishing the building.
Northern Lights Newcastle in Leazes Park
We were delighted this year to form a new partnership with Northern Lights Newcastle. Right in the heart of the city, Northern Lights brought their brand new light trail to light up Newcastle with jaw-dropping illuminations like never before.
2023 was a very special year for Leazes Park as it marked 150 years since the park was first opened to the public. Northern Lights was a wonderful way to celebrate this milestone and showcase the city’s first public park. Just as thousands of people would have flocked to Leazes Park when it opened in December 1873, last December saw more than 100,000 people enjoy the amazing spectacle that was Northern Lights.
Christmas at the Bandstand in Exhibition Park
We rounded off the year with the introduction of some festive evenings around the original Victorian bandstand in Exhibition Park as part of a collaboration between the Urban Green Cafe, Urban Park Market and Ringtons.
With live performances, local traders and cosy evening openings at the cafe in the park, these events opened the door to some exciting opportunities for 2024… watch this space!
A look at the Urban Green Cafes’ in 2023…
Reinvesting all profits back into the parks, the Urban Green Cafes have also been working hard to connect communities to their local parks. With around 75,000 coffees and 30,000 ice creams served, we’re grateful to everyone who has enjoyed the cafes with us in 2023.
A highlight from May this year was receiving an award for the cafe’s contribution and commitment to recycling, waste reduction and sustainable practices in their business model at the cafes.
There is still a long way to go and we are looking at reducing plastic waste further in 2024.
If you want to support waste reduction in the cafes, then please bring along your reusable cup to either cafe or our mobile cafe pod and receive a 25p discount each time!
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2024?
Looking to give more back to your community? Why not volunteer with us!
Wanting to catch-up with old friends more? Why not meet them for a natter and a brew in the park at one of our cafes!
Wanting to get fit or meet new people? Check out sports and events in the parks!