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Countryside, Cuts, Editorial, Parks, Walsall Borough

EDITORIAL Forever autumn: what future for our green spaces?

Bloxwich Park, our ancient village green: will those fallen leaves lie undisturbed in future?

Bloxwich Park, our ancient village green: will those fallen leaves lie undisturbed in future?

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder
Now you’re not here

Today is Sunday, and the weather, surprisingly given conditions of late, was lovely, crisp, clear and sunny, with a sparkling light fit to shine deep into our souls. The grass was green, and the red-hot fallen leaves of autumn glowed bright in the wintry sunshine.  The great wheel of the seasons is turning, and we can see this all around us.  It is part of our lives, and our spirit.

What did you do?  Did you go for a walk?  Did you take the dog, your partner, the kids?  Where did you go?  A day out in the car?  Or a trip into our borough’s very own countryside havens?  A wander down to the local park, perhaps after church or a quiet drink in the pub?  Bloxwich is blessed with so many leafy parks and village greens, we are surrounded with trees and lawns, bushes and shrubs, little pools and hidden nature walks, with a once-bubbling fountain, quiet now but biding its time for the spring to come.

What a great day to be outdoors.  What was it like?  What did you see there?  Did you look around in wonder, stand silent amongst tall poplars, birch or oak?  Listen awe-struck to the birds, or stare out breathless across a trembling lake or pool?  Did you kick your way through the leaves, run along the footpaths and across the grass?  Did you feel the icy breeze sending a tingle up your spine?  Didn’t it feel good to be alive?

Come spring and summer, will you return to these green temples of peace for quiet contemplation, for family fun days and traditional carnivals, for childrens’ activities and adult education, for minibeast hunts and birdwatching walks, to spot bats or butterflies, to consider the rocks and waters beneath your feet or to watch the stirring of life on land, in the air and beneath the water of ponds and lakes?

Yet these havens of living beauty, and our access to them, cannot be taken for granted.  In dark times, we may have to fight for them, to raise our voices and our hands, to question and call to account those who set themselves far above us, as they see it.

What will you do if our parks and countryside spaces, the green and beating hearts of our towns and our borough’s hinterland, begin to suffer from neglect?  What if mowing the grass and managing the trees and heathland, trimming the bushes and husbanding the hedgerows, dredging the ponds and lakes, bending the willow fences and mending the stiles, picking the poop and clearing up all those glorious but now dark and rotting autumn leaves are all cut back, or heaven forbid, abandoned altogether?

What will you do if the opening hours are cut, the services dwindle, the helpful staff, the hard-working maintenance crews, the expert rangers, inspiring educators and supportive volunteers disappear, until one day you walk up to the gates of Bloxwich Park, or King George V Playing Fields, or Bloxwich Promenade Gardens, or any of the borough’s many parks and nature reserves large and small are locked and bolted, with barbed wire on the railings, the buildings boarded up, the play equipment rusting, the tools abandoned in the long grass and nothing stirring beyond the bars but the breeze, the peeling paint on burnt-out cars and the uneasy odour of fly-tipped rubbish.

What will you do?

Well you cannot say that you have not seen it coming.

What do you mean?  You cannot see it? You cannot hear it? You cannot read it? Are your eyes and ears open at all?  Things are falling apart all over England as a result of government cuts forced upon the people by those who think they are better than us, those with their millionaire’s hands jammed deep in our pockets but who care nothing for crumbling services, slashed jobs and ‘little’ lives that do not matter to them.

You see, it is happening already, even to the glorious legacy of our Victorian forebears who created the town and village parks for the good of the people, for their health and for their spiritual well-being.  And to the work of those who came after, inspired by the same ideals and a love of life and of knowledge to set up our nature reserves.  One day, perhaps, we may even see these places abandoned altogether, as part of “efficiency savings” or because “nobody cares”.

What will you do if the parks are built on and the nature reserves become a haven of a different kind – for drug addicts and burnt-out cars?  You may see no sign of this now, but those who do not care for the people will surely care even less for the green places that they love and need.

And swingeing green cuts are coming to Walsall.  Forced by massive and insupportable local authority budget cuts by national government, proposals already announced by the Council will lead to yet more staff cuts and “efficiency savings”.  We know what that means.  Oh, there are no parks closing now, nor are there plans to do so – but what of the future? A slippery slope is just that, and who will put on the brakes?

Thankfully, there are those arising who will stand against such decline and will fight for alternatives to cuts.  They are, appropriately, a “grass roots” group of Walsall countryside enthusiasts who can see clearly the dark clouds looming ahead for our local green spaces, because they are actively engaged in supporting them and the hard-working Walsall Council staff who do so much to make them accessible and enjoyable.

Beginning with the Friends of Park Lime Pits, they have not let the grass grow under their feet. Hearing of the cuts proposed, they stood up to be counted on Facebook, they made their opinions known through Twitter, they set up an official petition on the Walsall Council website, and organised not only a peaceful protest at the Council House but a meeting with senior Council officers, so that they could both better understand the reasoning behind the cuts – and make their voices heard.

Would that the people of this once-great nation would do as much.  Would that YOU would do as much.  Will you?

Much of what you really need to know is here, on the blog and other sites of this passionate group.  Make up your own mind on the issues and ask questions:

Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services

Sign the Petition against the cuts

Join the Facebook group

SHOW YOU CARE.

Before this all this is gone.  It has already begun…

Stuart Williams, Editor

Click on each photo below (and above) to see the full beauty of these precious places:

Abandoned Park Keeper's Lodge, Wiggin Avenue, King George V Playing Fields.

Abandoned Park Keeper’s Lodge, Wiggin Avenue, King George V Playing Fields.

King George V Playing Fields mean so much to so many.

King George V Playing Fields mean so much to so many.

Wallington Heath Pool - an 18th century stagecoach halt saved from weed and neglect by parks staff.

Wallington Heath Pool – an 18th century stagecoach halt saved from weed and neglect by parks staff.

History and natural beauty come together at Bloxwich Promenade Gardens on the High Street.

History and natural beauty come together at Bloxwich Promenade Gardens on the High Street.

Not just a patch of grass - a place of life and heritage on Elmore Green since ancient times..

Not just a patch of grass – a place of life and heritage on Elmore Green since ancient times..

Forever Autumn

(from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds)

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder
Now you’re not here

I WATCH the birds fly south across the Autumn sky
And one by one they DISAPPEAR
I wish that I was flying WITH them
Now you’re not here

Like the SUN through the trees you came to love me
Like a leaf on the breeze you blew away

Through Autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way
You always loved this time of year
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now
Cause you’re not here

Like the SUN through the trees you came to love me
Like a leaf on the breeze you blew away

A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
As if to hide a lonely tear
My life will be forever Autumn
Cause you’re not here

Cause you’re not here

Cause you’re not here…

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