The latest benefits of Fields in Trust's Active Spaces programme are being felt in Northern Ireland, following the opening of a new trim trail at The People's Park in Ballymena.
Funded by the London Marathon Charitable Trust, Active Spaces is protecting recreational spaces in perpetuity across the UK and creating activity projects to inspire the most inactive communities to get active. The programme has protected four spaces in Northern Ireland, covering nearly 25 hectares, with each having received a £5,000 activation grant to deliver activity sessions at the spaces.
In addition to their activation grant, The People's Park was recipient of one of four UK-wide capital grants of £25,000, which has enabled them to improve already popular walking trails within the park and create a trim trail. The addition of outdoor fitness equipment manufactured from natural timber has ensured the space has retained its scenic environment along the paths and trails amongst the most beautiful areas of the park.
The trail itself has been in place since November 2019 and has already been proving popular with local residents of all ages. The project was officially launched last week by Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr. Maureen Morrow, who said: "It is with great delight that I have been asked to officially launch the new Trim Trail at The People's Park in Ballymena.
"Since being installed a few months ago, it has been one of the most popular features of the park, and it is great to see so many people enjoying it.
"The trail has been well used already by people of all ages and abilities, from a local Senior Walking Group to adults with learning and physical issues who attend The Base right here in the park, as well as a local gymnastics club.
"The Trim Trail has been made possible thanks to the funding from Fields in Trust, in partnership with London Marathon Charitable Trust, and the equipment is open for all to use, so I would encourage everyone to get out and try it for themselves!"
The People's Park is the main public park in the heart of the town of Ballymena in County Antrim. It is close to several housing estates as well as the town centre itself, meaning it is easily accessible to a large number of local residents. The borough of Mid and East Antrim suffers from one of the highest rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease in Northern Ireland, whilst one ward adjacent to the space falls within the top 25% of deprived communities in the province.
Prior to the introduction of the new trim trail, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council used their activation grant to deliver a 'Spring in to Spring' programme, which ran for ten weeks and included a range of activities including variations of walking, outdoor gym circuits, Pilates and cardio sport sessions. Of the programme's participants, 22% were previously completely inactive whilst 36% had previously done 30 minutes or less of physical activity each week. Following the success of this programme, the addition of the trim trail equipment will encourage even greater numbers of residents to become and remain more active, reaping the proven physical and mental health benefits of enjoying green spaces.
The Active Spaces programme is funded by the London Marathon Charitable Trust and across the UK has provided 50 newly protected spaces with activation funding. In addition to The People's Park, a further three have each also received a £25,000 capital grant: Gelligaled Park in Rhonda Cynon Taf; Halewood Park in Knowsley; and West Pilton Park in Edinburgh.
Chief Grants Officer for The London Marathon Charitable Trust, Sarah Ridley, said: "Since 1981, The London Marathon Charitable Trust has funded a huge range of projects which have inspired millions of people to get active.
"Delivered in partnership with Fields in Trust, Active Spaces is our first UK-wide funding initiative. We are delighted to fund this important project at The People's Park and to support Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to deliver it.
"The site will be permanently protected, and new facilities provided through a grant from The Trust, enabling local people to enjoy the benefits of physical activity into the future."
Chief Executive of Fields in Trust, Helen Griffiths, said: "We know that parks and green spaces contribute to health and wellbeing; people enjoy greater life satisfaction including both improved physical and mental health, directly as a result of regularly using parks and green spaces.
"We congratulate Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on this project which will contribute to a happier and healthier local community able to enjoy The People’s Park in perpetuity".
Further information on the Active Spaces programme can be found here.
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