Business innovation blooms amid glory of country parks
"We are very proud of the work that our skilled and dedicated teams do 'in the field' to ensure that these areas remain safe and beautiful and also of the innovative thinking which underpins the service and ensures that is economically viable."
With more than 1,300 acres of land under their control, the team that runs Warwickshire County Council’s country parks and greenways has a big responsibility.
They are custodians of some of the county’s crown jewels - the rolling hills of Burton Dassett, the magical woodlands of Hartshill Hayes, the elegant greenways of Kenilworth and Stratford. Warwickshire is a beautiful county and much of its beauty is in the care of this 40-strong team.
Warwickshire’s five country parks, three greenways and two nature reserves attract around a million visits per year. They contribute heavily to the pleasure and wellbeing of the county’s residents and have a massively positive environmental impact.
These places are of immeasurable value to Warwickshire, so looking after them is a great responsibility…and challenge. Protecting and maintaining them comes at a cost so it all has to be underpinned by solid financial strategy. Delivering the pleasure of country parks is a serious business.
“It is the nature of these places that there will always be costs that are essential and ongoing, so we need to generate a level of revenue to help meet those costs,” said Rachel Baconnet, Warwickshire County Council’s Lead Commissioner (Country Parks and Green Spaces). “Our ambition is to keep improving every year and we have some exciting proposals in the pipeline to support that ambition.”
Within that ambition there is plenty of room for creativity. The country parks constantly throw up small business opportunities, two of which currently beckon at Kingsbury Water Park and Pooley Country Park.
Pooley Park, spanning 154 acres around the Coventry Canal near Polesworth, has a quirky charm - and potential - all of its own.
“Pooley has immense potential,” said WCC Strategic and Commercial Manager, Marcus Ferguson. “It is on the former colliery site and retains the old colliery wheel. Its tearoom has loads of brilliant colliery memorabilia and a timeline relating the history of the site. The park itself is a hidden gem and we are really excited to see how all that potential is fulfilled.
“The former tearoom building is available for lease, along with 20 acres of grazing land. They could be leased together or separately and we’ve already had seven Expressions of Interest. There is a real opportunity to do something new here, something that potentially we haven’t even previously considered.”
Another intriguing opportunity exists at Kingsbury Water Park, near the Staffordshire border. Within the sylvan park, which has 15 lakes, lies Broomey Croft Farm, recently vacated and now in the process of restoration.
“Broomey Croft offers a great opportunity as either a working farm or a combination of farm/tourist attraction with its café building and adjacent campsite,” said Marcus. “It’s another example of the untapped potential around our country parks and it is our mission in the coming years to make the most of all these amazing places that we are lucky enough to have."
Councillor Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Climate and Culture at Warwickshire County Council, said: “Countryside and green spaces are so precious to our daily lives and Warwickshire County Council is dedicated to protecting and nurturing these invaluable assets through our Country Parks service. We are very proud of the work that our skilled and dedicated teams do "in the field" to ensure that these areas remain safe and beautiful and also of the innovative thinking which underpins the service and ensures that it is economically viable.
“The service as a whole demonstrates our commitment to enhancing the wellbeing of our residents, supporting our community's health and preserving the beauty and biodiversity of our county.”
For more information about Warwickshire’s Country Parks, visit: www.countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk