We played here as kids - now our children can too

10 October 2018 | Midlands

Moira street pocket park

See how inspirational volunteers transformed wasteland into beautiful park.

Joe Murphy remembers playing in the park on Moira Street as a child growing up in Leicester. But as the years passed, it fell into disrepair.

Joe, 45, said: “I used to go there as a kid, as did many of my friends. But issues around insurance and maintenance had seen it close and turn into a dumping ground.”

The gated square on Moira Street had play equipment and seating but it was overgrown and had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect.

That was when Joe decided to engage the help of local people to see if together they could restore the privately-owned site near the city’s famous Golden Mile to its former glory.

He said: “I’d walked past this derelict site for years and after hearing that it might be turned into a car park, I felt we had to act.

“This is a busy thoroughfare into the city and we need these urban green spaces for healthy communities.”

Joe, who also set up environmental project GraceWorks Leicester, secured £500 and a peppercorn lease from the landowners, JC Decaux, to get the idea off the ground.

He and friend Ben Brown raised £30,000 in local and national government grants to pay for new seating, accessible surfaces, bat and bird boxes, and flowers to attract wildlife. Then volunteers from GraceWorks and the community gave up evenings and weekends to clear a tonne of concrete and do planting. SLM Builders also gave their services for free and Leicester Council workers completed the hard landscaping.

Joe said: “People from every ethnic background and religion joined us. Many had memories of using the playground and it was really quite special.

“Some brought along their kids, a few of whom were up to mischief, to show them about caring for their local area. It made a big impact.”

And the end result of so many people coming together is proof that when people help people, it makes communities thrive.

Moira Street Pocket Park officially opened in June 2017 and is a peaceful spot for people of all ages to escape the stresses of city life, with fruit trees, herbs and perennial flowers.

Joe said: “At first I would unlock the gates early each morning and lock them at night. Now I leave the park open and apart from a few small incidents of anti-social behaviour, the community cares for it.”

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