Why Community Matters

You may be wondering why I have posted a picture of what was Durham Hill Park in Downham for a post about FOBOS. It’s very relevant (I promise) and I will come to that in a minute, but first, let me tell you about why we decided to get FOBOS back on its feet.

On 3rd May 2018 I saw a post on a facebook group I followed (the original FOBOS group) asking whether there were any plans to renew or replace the park at Belmont Open Space. I had just got my 1 month old baby down for a nap and his big brother who was 17 months old at the time sat playing with his toys. We had just started to frequent our local park and I too thought it had seen better days and wanted to know whether there were any plans.

Comments on the post were quite negative. One follower said the park was tired looking and had seen better days, which was a shame as it was used and loved by so many local children and could do with a facelift. Another follower explained how her daughter had had a bad fall due to the uneven floor and I even grumbled that the wooden posts behind the roundabout were a tad dangerous after my niece tried to jump the gap and then fell down.

However, admist all these comments was Gemma Ramsden (now the FOBOS Chairwoman), appealing to all us grumblers for help. She explained that the Friends group were hoping to get a grant to renew the equipment in the park but that it was still in the early stages. She said she was looking to do some basic revamps in the interim to improve the park such as painting the fence. She said if anyone would like to get involved to let her know as they were looking for more committee members.

I sat and pondered whether I had the time to do this. I did have my hands quite full after all. I decided I could either sit here and grumble or I could take positive action and offer to help. That’s when I reached out to Gemma. I was surprised to discover we had a lot in common, such as us both having two boys of roughly the same age, both having partners called Andrew as well as the obvious which is us both being called Gemma! I remember really admiring her when we first met as she told me that it was really important to her to have a local park where her children will grow up and play. It was what she said next though that shocked me to the core. Gemma explained that during her conversations with Idverde she discovered that councils are under no legal obligation to maintain parks and we were quite fortunate that Bromley contracted Idverde as they could just leave it to become overgrown if they wanted to. Parks don’t receive funding for regeneration and when equipment breaks it would simply be removed! For her it was of vital importance that our local park and green space was protected for future generations. I loved how passionate she was, and I was sold and that’s when I joined the FOBOS team.

What does this have to do with Durham Hill Park in Downham?. . . The picture is a stark reminder of what Gemma said.

I grew up in Downham and my mum would often take me and my brother to Durham Hill Park after school. I have so many happy memories of trying to swing the highest with my friends, playing on the monkey bars and letting myself get completely dizzy on the roundabout! That park is part of who I am today. As I grew up I no longer visited the park because I had no need to. However, imagine my shock when I suggested to a friend who lives in Downham that we take my boys there (admittedly because I wanted to play on the swings again – doesn’t every adult) and she told me that it wasn’t there anymore. I thought she was joking. I asked where all the local kids went to play. Apparently the park fell into disrepair and the play equipment was removed and never replaced. Where the swings once stood is tarmac with a painted yellow squiggle through it, the roundabout is now tarmac with an orange circle painted in it and where the monkey bars once stood is now just an empty patch of concrete. My heart sank.

Gemma explained that we would be applying for a grant to regenerate the park but first we had to raise money and demonstrate it is a real community space enjoyed by all the locals to strengthen our application for funding. We therefore hosted our first community event in July 2018 which was “Have a Field Day” in conjunction with Fields in Trust. We didn’t have as high a turn out as we hoped but it was an amazing day where people from the community came together for some sporty fun, enjoying sack races, egg and spoon races and tug’o’war. Gemma even brought over some of her own garden toys and placed them under a shady tree for babies and toddlers to play.

We then realised we needed to grow our social media presence and really let people know we are here. We worked on rebranding our logo, planning future community events and relaunching ourselves on Facebook with a brand new page and launching ourselves on twitter. This has proved hugely successful and we are rapidly gaining followers thanks to the shares from our current followers. We have also had support from Visit Chislehurst, the Chislehurst Society and our fellow Friends groups such as Friends of Chislehurst Recreation Ground and Scadbury Park.

We recently had a community litter picking day on 6th April 2019 and we have our park fence painting event coming up on 18th May 2019. We are also planning a Superhero Dash in July 2019 to raise money for the park and there will be many more events coming up so please ensure you follow us to stay up to date.

This is why it is so important for us to rally together as a community to protect our park, fields and woodlands. Without a Friends Group to care for it there is a real risk it will one day suffer the same fate as Durham Hill.

If you’d like to join us on the FOBOS committee please either reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter or email us via the contact page.

Any support you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Gemma Sargeant (Vice Chairwoman)