Green Angels create magic in Liverpool Park
What the scheme is and why was it set up?
In 2012, national land management charity, the Land Trust was looking at opportunities to improve Liverpool Festival Gardens and boost the park’s group of volunteers. It created Green Angels; an innovative programme which would focus on improving the quality of life for local communities who live around the Gardens, whilst also enhancing the park environment.
Liverpool Festival Gardens was the site of the 1984 International Garden Festival. After its closure, was left derelict and fell into disrepair, but in 2012 was partly restored and the Land Trust took on the management.
The Green Angels scheme would provide environmental training opportunities, creating new ways for local people to learn new skills, meet new people and improve their future prospects.
In 2013, the Land Trust secured a grant from the BIG Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme to develop its Green Angels training programme over two years. It has been offering learning opportunities in countryside management, parks maintenance, business skills, environmental education and horticulture and many of its graduates have successfully moved onto employment or further training.
How the programme has progressed
The Green Angels programme has progressed steadily, building in momentum over the course of the last two years. The programme has received an overwhelming response, with more than 200 enquiries/applications, resulting in 66 people progressing through the Green Angels training courses.
It is fantastic to see what can be achieved.
The Gardens have benefitted significantly, with a new wildflower meadow and a show bed near to the main entrance, which creates a welcoming splash of colour for visitors. Our Green Angels have been instrumental in restoring areas of the Gardens to their original state, with the trainees putting into practice their learning, including clearing self-seeded trees, gorse and invasive species, such as brambles and nettles and allowing the recovery of planned species, such as corkscrew hazel, hawthorn, strawberry trees and blackthorn.
Further benefits to the Gardens include a row of ten eco compost bays that the trainees have built. These provide habitats for insects and small animals and allow for a more controlled management of the compostable materials on site.
This programme has also created opportunities for people to learn new skills. These have included effective delivery of environmental education activities, such as insect and plant identification and mini-beast hunting; lesson planning techniques; composting techniques; propagation; identifying, treating and preventing common plant diseases; wildlife habitat creation; wildflower meadow creation and tree felling.
Finally, the programme has inspired a group of trainees to explore the option of setting up a social enterprise to continue the Green Angels legacy in the Liverpool area. This group is currently trialling environmental education activities at Our Lady’s Bishop Eton Primary School, running an after school gardening club on a voluntary basis, with an understanding that they will charge for services in future if the venture is a success.
The social enterprise is ambitious in its ideas with potential services including community/school art projects, aquaponics systems/demonstrations and a holistic grounds maintenance/environmental education service, targeted at educational establishments.
Challenges and successes
A major challenge of the Green Angels programme has been to combat a potentially negative approach from some trainees who have applied reluctantly and have low expectations of what is involved in a “free” course. The project leaders have ensured that everyone feels valued, that they have provided quality training from approachable, professional instructors, and that attendance is a choice and not an obligation.
The presentation of Green Angels certificates meant a lot to the participants, and the Certificate Event proved a great success in re-uniting groups of friends and celebrating achievement. Another major success has been the impact on Festival Gardens, which now has many more beautiful planting and new or enhanced wildlife habitat areas. Furthermore, a number of Green Angels trainees have gone on to find jobs in the environmental field.
Current Green Angels Community Engagement Officer.
Rowan completed the Parks and Countryside Management and Horticulture courses in Spring 2014. Although he had been unemployed for over six months, Rowan had a background in Gardening (a self-employed gardener) and was actively involved in a community garden project.
After completing the course, the opportunity of Community Engagement Officer on the Green Angels programme came up. Rowan applied for this role and was successful. Rowan has been working with the Project Manager to deliver the programme since October 2014 and will see it through to its completion in November 2015.
Rowan said “The Green Angels project really gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my skills and knowledge. Sometimes, being long term unemployed can really sap your drive and ambition. As I had previously suffered a back (disk) injury, returning to my gardening business really was the final resort. The Green Angels project taught me so much but more importantly, it showed me that there were other options out there to work in the environmental sector. When the position came up for Community Engagement Officer for the project I jumped at the chance.”
Arthur Deane completed the Green Angels Horticulture course in Spring 2015. He was unemployed at the time and subsequently, after completing the course, he gained a position as the Ground Maintenance Assistant with Plus Dane Housing Group in Liverpool.
Arthur said “I feel that attending the Green Angels course helped tremendously with my application. I would like to express my thanks to the Green Angels team for all the help and advice they gave me. I would recommend the
Green Angels project to all. Hopefully in the future, I can do another course if my new job allows.”
This programme has demonstrated that tailored schemes, such as Green Angels can really make a difference to individual people, local communities and public spaces. Liverpool Festival Gardens has truly benefitted from the additional activities undertaken by the Green Angels, volunteering their time. The programme has brought people from the local community together, enabling them to learn new skills and meet new people. It has also helped a number of participants to see the social and health benefits of volunteering, with a number continuing to volunteer at the Gardens whilst others have secured employment and progressed other opportunities, that may not have been available before.
Volunteering works; training works and put together, the Green Angels programme has really worked.
The Land Trust
The Land Trust is the national land management charity, managing green public open spaces for the benefit of local communities. We provide cost effective solutions to delivering high quality and sustainably maintained open spaces. Further information at www.thelandtrust.org.uk
Further details about Liverpool Festival Gardens and the Green Angels training programme can be found at