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Sandall Park: Everyone’s back garden

What a lovely spot to spend some time with your family. However, it has been a bumpy journey to get the park we all love today. Doncaster Echo had a chat with Sandra Crabtree, chair of Friends of Sandall Park (FoSP), to find out more about the park, its roots, and what plans it has for the future.

Sandall Park was born in 1939, transformed from a brick works to an urban park, at a time when people had war on their minds.

With a Boating Lake, children’s boats, putting green, golf, cricket, cycling races, football, angling, public toilets, the park had it all. However, by 1994 the council had withdrawn all facilities and funding and had abandoned the park to the yobs and criminals. Stolen motorbike racing, drinks dens and vandalism became the norm, visitors and park users withdrew – and then came FoSP: Friends of Sandall Park.

Sandra told Doncaster Echo: “In 2004 the group was formed and after a slow start things began to change. The first thing was a Crime Reduction Strategy to obliterate the antisocial behaviour element – which took us three to four years.

“It hasn’t been easy, it took quite a few battles with the council but eventually they got the message that we weren’t going away and the tide was turned. Since then we have drawn over £700,000 investment into the park through grant applications and funding appeals and we continue to raise new projects.

“Our latest, and most poignant success, has been our Quiet Garden. We have done lots to promote physical fitness, we are now concentrating on mental health which is a key concern nationwide. We have had mindfulness events and exercise classes in there but people use it to sit and regain some equilibrium.

“We have an international FoSP with members from America, thr Netherlands and Australia involved with the Quiet Garden – they have purchased memorial trees for it and have been actively involved in its development from afar. They designed our Quiet Garden logo!

“We are now working on a Mindfulness Project to take the Quiet Garden and the park further into helping people with mental health issues. Numerous people have commented on our Facebook page (over 6,600 followers) about how it has helped them through lockdown. In the very near future we will be installing a Caring Hands Sculpture to commemorate all the people who have suffered during the Covid crisis. This will also include painted stones that people have decorated and donated. We are also working on a dog drinking station which will hopefully be installed soon.

“When anyone wants to know anything about the park or what’s happening in it – they phone FoSP. Our core group is only very small, but we have innumerable other volunteers via park visitors. They will pick litter on their way round the park, help with ad hoc jobs, report anything that requires attention to us, and generally keep an eye on the park. We also work very closely with the StreetScene and Neighbourhood Teams at Doncaster Council.

Together we make a great team and it shows, Sandall Park is easily Doncaster’s premier urban park.”

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