We're helping to provide some virtual green space whilst you stay home this spring by Bringing Parks to You! For our next stop we cross the water to Northern Ireland and visit Antrim - immerse yourself in a trip to some of their local parks and green spaces.
We've reached the park gates on the second stop of our tour. Welcome to Antrim, let's have a look around Castle Gardens!
Through the park gates is the park map - take a look at the location of some of the parks and green spaces within the town of Antrim.
Join us on the virtual park bench along with Mayor of Antrim, Alderman John Smyth, who recalls memories of using the town's parks whilst growing up as part of sharing his Favourite Five.
Favourite childhood park: "Without a doubt Antrim Castle Gardens; before it was sold to the Council it was the place to go to where you were always sure of a chase by the elderly green keeper who was always looking after the large 100 metre greenhouses. Then there was the old ruins of Antrim Castle which was burnt in 1922. The old tunnels were a challenge for any young person to go down and explore all dark and dingy and smelling damp. All very scary and not at all like today in their restored form."
Favourite local park: "As an Antrim man I am totally biased, it is the Antrim Castle Gardens. When I was young I did not really appreciate the significance of the Gardens but today I have to thank the Council for having the foresight to buy and preserve such an outstanding place. Having been run down and neglected it took the financial power of Council with support from Heritage Lottery Fund to transform it into the award winning Antrim Castle Gardens which now sits proudly as our centre piece on the edge of the UK's largest freshwater lake, Lough Neagh."
Favourite overseas park: "Over the past decade we have been marking various centenaries associated with the First World War. One of those which has great significance to Northern Ireland is the centenary of the Battle of The Somme in 2016. As part of this I was lucky enough to visit the Ulster Tower in Thiepval, France. The Ulster Tower is Northern Ireland's national war memorial within a parkland and one of the first Memorials to be erected on the Western Front and commemorates the men of Northern Ireland lost in the War. I found it an incredibly moving experience and it stands out in my memory as a beautiful and tranquil setting."
"I never tire of exploring Antrim Castle Gardens where you can always uncover some new secret! I love to wander among the restored historical buildings and features..."
Mayor of Antrim, Alderman John Smyth
Favourite park memory: "Many years ago my older brother decided to run away from home and he planned to sleep out in the Castle Gardens, but he never stayed the whole night maintaining that he saw the dreaded ghost of the White Lady who had perished in the Castle fire and he came promptly home! He didn’t run away again!"
Favourite thing to do at the park: "I never tire of exploring Antrim Castle Gardens where you can always uncover some new secret! I love to wander among the restored historical buildings and features and try to imagine how people would have lived in that period and how exciting it would have been."
This week's bandstand celebration is for Antrim Castle Gardens winning the title of Northern Ireland's Best Park for the second time in 2019, having previously scooped the prize in 2016. The historic space has been transformed over the last decade and a half thanks to around £6 million in support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
"The journey of Antrim Castle Gardens from local gem to national treasure is one of transformation achieved by a passionate team driven by ambition to put their place on the map. This spectacular transformation has firmly established the majestic Gardens as the jewel in the crown of the Council's offering".
Nomination for UK's Best Park 2019
We're brightening up your Instagram feed with a park a day as our tour makes its way around the UK - head over to @fieldsintrust and give us a follow!
We hope the latest stop on our Bringing Parks to You tour here in Antrim brought a little virtual joy in these challenging times as we are all reminded what valuable and precious places our local parks and green spaces are. Next up we cross over to Scotland and to Dunfermline before moving onwards around the UK. Discover more of Bringing Parks to You and let us know where you think the tour should travel to!
Fields in Trust is an independent charity with over 90 years’ experience protecting parks and green spaces. We work with landowners, community groups and policymakers to champion the value of our parks and green spaces to achieve better protection for their future at both local and national level.