Doncaster park volunteers vow to keep it a place of beauty

Last October a group of dog walkers decided to set up a group dedicated to the upkeep of one of Doncaster’s most treasured beauty spots. Ten months on and they are going from strength to strength.

By Kev Rogers
Friday, 3rd September 2021, 9:57 am

Doncaster is lucky to have the beautiful Town Fields park in the heart of town and a group of local volunteers are determined to keep it that way.

Friends of Town Fields are dedicated to improving and maintaining the 110 acre park which is used daily by hundreds of picnickers dog walkers and sporting enthusiasts of all ages.

Since its inception The Friends of the Town Fields has grown into a 25-strong volunteer force who give up their time to improve the maintenance and development of the Town Fields.

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Alastair Lang and Jon Lyall are both volunteers for Friends of Town Fields next to a bench reinstalled by Doncaster Council.

As well as daily litter picking and keeping the park in pristine condition they have become the eyes and ears for Doncaster Council.

We took a trip to the park and spoke to founder members Alastair Lang and Jon Lyall about the improvements that have already been made – and future plans for the group.

Alastair said: “We’ve been working with the council on getting certain improvements made and so far they have been carrying out a lot of work on the bins, the benches and the trees.

The council had been replacing trees that had been lost,” Alastair said. “They planted quite a lot, and also planted them in Elmfield Park and Regent Square.

Doncaster Council has put protective wire frames around new trees to protect them from damage until they are established.

“But some of them were being destroyed.

“We think this was by a dog carelessly being allowed to use them as a chewing stick– and the council has protected them with very effective wire mesh fencing. They did a really good job. If they had been left alone they would have been absolutely fine – but there’s always someone who behaves thoughtlessly.”

The council has also been filling in pot holes on the paths and removing trip hazards.

He added: “We’ve had a number of new bins and we’ve pointed out to them that some of the bins were in the way of some of the paths.

Doncaster Coucnil has re-wilded some grassland areas at Town fields - people have been warned to beware of tics which have been affecting dogs.

“We showed them where the bins could be located and they relocated them back off the paths into the edges which was absolutely great.

“They have replaced all the benches on the fields – one in particular was facing the wrong way round and they have turned it around.

“On another bench the bolts had become loose and they came and replaced those.”

Jon Lyall who joined us along with his rescue dog Dudley is concerned over graffiti, drug use in the park, as well as its use by prostitutes and their clients. He has been concerned to see used condoms in the park, which is close to a primary school.

Jon Lyall and Alastair Lang are volunteers for Friends of Town Fields, a 110 acre beauty spot in the heart of Doncaster used by picnickers dog walkers and all kinds of sports.

"We are on first name terms with the council’s graffiti team. We want to make sure there is absolutely no litter in the park. Several people pick it up every day because when there is no litter is discourages people from adding to it.

"I would ask people to take their rubbish home with them when they come here for picnics. Some families are leaving bin bags full of discarded food and other things which are being ripped open by dogs.”

Doncaster Council has set aside areas of grassland for re-wilding to encourage natural plants and habitats and the group has worked with them on this.

“There were a lot of complaints about the re-wilding next to the paths where children and dogs were at risk from debris that collected in the long grass,” said Alastair.

"Kids do like to play in the long grass unfortunately, and they are at risk of getting injured.There was danger because of broken bottles, discarded condoms and dog excrement.

“So now they have mowed all the grass around the edges of the paths.”

The majority of the friends are dog walkers and meet each other every day. He warned of a recent report of dogs being affected by tics in the long grass.

“If people get a tic on them, they can suffer with Lyme disease. So we're concerned about that as well.”

He says there are still still some issues with benches and bins and potholes and low hanging branches on trees, plus the hedge around the primary school.

"There is a nasty little cubby hole in the hedge which is used for nefarious activity so we're trying to get that removed,” said Alistair.

We keep working with the council and bit by bit things are being done.

We would obviously hope that things could be done more quickly but we appreciate they have their own constraints on costs and on the people they have available to do the work.

He is keen to compliment the authority on it’s cooperation with the group.

"Under the current situation they are short staffed with the covid self-isolation problems. We realise that,” he says.

"We don’t want to bombard them with emails every day.

"We give them a weekly report, copying in the councillors so they're up to date with what has been done and what still needs to be done and we try and give them some idea of the priorities as we see them.

"We appreciate they have had budget cuts but doing nothing is not an option.”

In the future, he believes the group will be looking to make more things happen at the park. For instance, one of the team of volunteers is looking to arrange a dog show there when circumstances allow for it in the future.

As well as working with the cash-strapped local authority the group has had discussions about formalising their activities so they can apply for improvement grants.