Our city of Salford has a wide range of open spaces that are loved and enjoyed by many people throughout the community.
From Peel Park to Kersal Wetlands, there are many places for people of all ages to get some exercise, see some stunning wildlife and relax with their friends and family.
Since the start of the pandemic, parks have been particularly important for the physical and mental wellbeing of residents across Salford and have provided a safe haven to meet with friends or family members.
But which parks have residents been enjoying the most? I have been asking people from all across the city to vote for their favourite, and I have now found a clear top five.
5. Victoria Park
Starting with number 5, Victoria Park is a Green Flag award winning park that was opened in 1897, making it one of the oldest parks in the city.
It is located in Swinton, right next to Swinton Football Club.
There is a wide range of facilities in the park including an events area, tennis courts, outdoor gym equipment and a children’s play area.
The main attraction of Victoria Park however is its beautifully restored Victorian bandstand which is a grade 2 listed building and has been there since the park opened in 1897.
Sarah Whitehead, a regular user of the park, said that the bandstand is her favourite part of the park:
“The bandstand is a beautiful reminder of bygone times, our event Salford Mad Pride takes place there”, she said.
“The park also has lovely flower displays.”
The history of the bandstand goes all the way back to Victorian times. It was erected to commemorate the completion of the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Although it was restored in 2005, the structure has been in the park since 1897.
As well as the tennis courts and gym equipment that have been helping to keep people active and improving their physical wellbeing during lockdown, Victoria Park have also been running sessions to try and help people’s mental wellbeing during this very stressful time.
Friends of Victoria Park are running the sessions to try and get people talking about their problems. They are a group of volunteers that try to improve the park and plan events to help the community.
Groups like these have been particularly important to communities across Salford this year and have kept green spaces around the city clean and tidy for residents.
4. Peel Park
Peel Park is well known amongst University of Salford students.
The park is home to about 1500 students during term time who reside in Peel Park Quarter, a luxury living space that was opened in 2015.
It is also home to Atmosphere Bar, the University of Salford’s student union. However, the park’s history often goes unnoticed.
It is the oldest park in Salford and one of the oldest parks in Britain, opening in 1846.
Named after former Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, it is now said to be the World’s first public park, although there is some dispute over this.
It is situated on the flood plain of the River Irwell, adjacent to the University and Salford Crescent train station.
Despite being partly a university campus, the park has its own beauty and was voted for by just over 6% of people in my survey as being the best park in Salford.
The park is used by many for riverside walks, with the River Irwell running alongside it. This brings with it a whole host of wildlife and, of course, stunning views.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the park has provided a safe haven for students to get some exercise and has been important for the mental health of students living on the campus as well as local residents who live near the park.
Rebecca Archer is a third year psychology student at the University of Salford and she believes that parks are not only a good stress reliever for students but they also help them with their workload:
“I think that parks have massively helped students during lockdown. It gives everyone a chance to get out and about when, at the moment, they’re not really able to do so due to the restrictions in place.
“Personally for me, fresh air and wildlife has really been making me feel a lot better in myself and has been breaking up the days.
“I find it hard being able to do uni work if I haven’t been out during the day so even just a quick walk round the park clears my head, makes me feel more motivated and makes me see my work a lot more clearly.”
Peel Park isn’t the only park that students have been enjoying around the city but with it being so close to university facilities, it’s a place where students can feel safe whilst getting some exercise.
3. Buile Hill Park
Buile Hill Park is, for many, the pillar of the Salford community.
Situated in Seedley and Pendleton, it is the largest park in the city, and also the second oldest behind Peel Park.
The park as we know it today was opened in 1903 when, what was known as Seedley Park, and the grounds of Buile Hill house were joined together by the closure of the ‘dog entry’ path which had separated them.
The then Mayor of Salford, Alderman Stephens, opened the park after local residents had chipped in £2500 towards the project.
Today, it is enjoyed by many people across the city who go there to witness it’s beautiful wildlife and enjoy the stunning views of Manchester that can be seen from the top end of the park.
The Friends of Buile Hill Park organisation are a group of volunteers who look after the best interests of the park and work to keep it a safe and friendly environment for residents.
Mark Frith of Buile Hill Mansion Association works very closely with the Friends of Buile Hill Park group to look to improve the park.
Mark is also the founder of Growing Togetherness which is a therapeutic horticulturalist group that looks to use the natural environment to grow togetherness and improve the mental health of Salford residents.
During lockdown, the group created Salford’s newest community allotment on the Seedley Park side of Buile Hill Park which, according to Mark, has created a “loving and caring community passionate about growing and sharing produce with others.”
On why he believes parks have been so important for people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak, Mark said:
“Most people rush past parks without a second thought, but during the pandemic people have been given the freedom of time to explore their inner city green spaces.
“2020 has been a surreal year, but not all of the experiences have been bad. The relinquishing of people from the daily commute has had an amazing effect on our environment improving air quality and reducing noise pollution in our cities.”
The Friends of Buile Hill Park have been trying to create a safe haven for people to relax and unwind during the pandemic and have a community café which is run by volunteers and is open on Wednesday’s, Thursday’s and Saturday’s.
Whilst Buile Hill is Mark’s favourite park in Salford, he understands the need for the park to improve their facilities:
“We need to work hard with the council to improve the accessibility and facilities within the park.
“The Mansion in the park has been asleep for the past 20 years and we promise that in the next twelve months we will be working closely with the council and other organisations to reinvigorate the renovation of the Mansion and surrounding buildings.”
2. Clifton Country Park
In second place comes an area that is hidden away in the Clifton area of Salford and many people might not know about it. With almost a quarter of votes in my survey, it’s Clifton Country Park.
Clifton Country Park lies in the Irwell Valley and is made up of 48 hectares of beautiful countryside.
With the River Irwell flowing alongside it, a host of ponds and a stunning lake, the park attracts a wide range of wildlife including swans, herons and geese.
The park was designated a local nature reserve in 2005 and currently holds the Green Flag Award, an award that recognises well-managed outdoor spaces.
Olivia Oakley lives locally to the Park and she believes the reason why it’s the best park in Salford is because of the wide range of habitats that are there:
“I just love how it’s got a lake, ponds and a large area of woodland where many species live. With the river running alongside it too, it’s just a lovely place to go.”
“There’s a play area for the children, a cafe which is open all year round and so many different routes around the park that you can take.”
The park also lays bare Salford’s industrial history. It is home to the industrial remains of the Wet Earth Colliery.
Established in 1740, the colliery was one of the first deep mines to be sunk in the Irwell Valley.
The colliery had a very long working life, finally closing in 1928 after over 180 years as a working colliery. The remains are one of the most interesting parts of the park and add a bit of Salford history to a walk around it.
Although Clifton Country Park doesn’t have a ‘friends of’ group as such, it does have a user group forum which gives park users the opportunity to be involved in and consulted about the management of the site.
The group is made up of representatives from different groups of people that use the park from anglers to horse riders.
The forum meets on a regular basis at the Clifton Country Park visitor centre to discuss new plans and projects for the park in an attempt to keep it a safe space and try to improve the park.
1. Light Oaks Park
And so we get to our number one, best park in Salford as voted for by 44.5% of participants in my survey.
Light Oaks Park it seems is the one that many people see as the park to go to in the city.
Situated in Claremont, the park was opened in 1925 and is one of the larger parks in Salford.
It is the focal point for the Claremont community, with lots of local groups meeting there regularly.
The duck pond is the main attraction of the park with herons, ducks and coots all on display as well as lots of other wildlife coming and going throughout the year.
As well as being able to see a range of wildlife in the duck pond, Light Oaks Park also has a children’s play area, outdoor gym equipment and a multi-use games area.
Kirsty Bamping lives locally to the park and gives a reason as to why Light Oaks is her favourite park in Salford:
Some other noticeable mentions that may not have made it into the top 5 but are certainly still enjoyed by many people across Salford include Ordsall Park, Green Grosvenor Park in Lower Broughton and the classic Victorian park in Walkden, Parr Fold Park.
Nic Jane says on Facebook that Parr Fold Park is “Small but beautiful. It has something for all ages and little hidden areas tucked away. The friends group work so hard to keep it in good condition.”
Langworthy Park is also a lovely place to go, although it is rather overshadowed by nearby Buile Hill Park.