Hastings Borough Council has won two very special awards for innovation in parks management.
The projects that secured the awards were for bathing water quality improvement in Alexandra Park and the introduction of Belted Galloway cattle, conservation grazing and heathland restoration at Hastings Country Park.
Councillor Colin Fitzgerald, lead member for the environment, said: “The country park and Alexandra Park are two of just eight inspirational parks and green spaces in the UK to achieve the award, which is presented to Green Flag Award or Green Flag Community Award winning sites that have made changes which have brought outstanding benefits to both their site and the local community.
“My thanks go to the dedicated council staff who found innovative ways of achieving their aims and then saw the projects through. “
He added: “The topography and coastal habitats of the country park presents challenges for conventional management.
“In 2015 we established an innovative free roaming conservation grazing project. We introduced a small herd of Exmoor ponies and Belted Galloway cattle to manage the wooded glens and slopes which are inaccessible for the mechanical equipment we would normally use.
“We opened up fencing so the cattle and ponies roam freely in the woods and steep slopes, allowing them the same freedom as walkers.
“Having successfully introduced these animals to help manage the park, we propose to roll out a second phase of grazing for four weeks in the autumn to cliff top areas. We are introducing a system of invisible fencing to allow grazing on the cliffs, with an underground induction loop fencing system restricting cattle to discreet areas for grazing whilst preserving the clifftop landscape.
“Our innovative use of free roaming grazing animals to manage threatened habitats on public land successfully combines biodiversity and wildlife management with public enjoyment and getting closer to nature, especially for residents from disadvantaged communities in the town.”
Turning to the award won by Alexandra Park, Cllr Fitzgerald said: “Waterways are a key feature in Alexandra Park. The Waterways Improvement Project started in the winter of 2014 and was completed in November 2016. The project aim was to reduce the contamination from surrounding sources and misconnections within the plumbing systems of some local houses entering into the stream flowing through the park.
“This involved the natural treatment of water in Alexandra Park through the creation of weirs, wetland, silt traps, planted stream channels, floating island eco-systems, pond edge treatment and an aeration system that sucks water through natural gravel and plant filtration beds.
“As a result of our work, stream water now travels slower through the park giving greater exposure to UV light, providing beneficial microbes and root filtration. The longer the water can be kept in the treatment areas the greater effect the power of nature will have to revitalise the quality of water discharged into the sea, resulting in improved bathing water quality at the outfall to the sea.”
Paul Todd, Green Flag Award Scheme manager, said: “Congratulations to everyone involved in the Hastings Country Park and Alexandra Park projects, both worthy winners of the Special Innovation Awards. Research has proved that quality parks and green spaces play a vital role within their local communities. Hastings Country Park and Alexandra Park are perfect examples of this.”