I was down the road from the Racecourse on Saturday with the Daughter in tow so i decided to give the Racecourse Park another go. The last time i visited hear was a couple of years ago and was welcomed at 8am by 5 eastern Europeans drinking there version of special brew on one of the benches. As well as all the litter and dog mess every where is enough to put most family's making use of the park so has it improved since then ? not really.
The Racecourse covers 118 acres just on the edge of Northampton town centre the site has been used since 1632 for unofficial race meetings but stopped a few years later due to the high number of accidents. But in 1737 with the help of Lord Spencer the first official race took place and was attended regularly by royalty up until 1904. The park was also used up until 1818 as the site for the towns public execution some times up to 5000 people would turn up to watch no TV's back then for entertainment.
It's no surprise that when i moved to the area i was warned not to go near the park after dark due to the high number of muggings, murders and rapes that have taken place over the years in the park. Which is a shame as it has great potential to be a lovely area for the local community to enjoy.
The lay out of the park it's self is quite nice avenues of lime trees cris cross through the park with benches underneath so you can sit in the shade of the trees. There are large expanses of grass many turn over to sporting activity's Rugby, football pitches etc.there are also to cricket fields which contain possibly the worst cricket squares i have seen weed ridden and completely not level would not make for good playing.
The one saving grace for the sporting facility's is they do have several immaculate bowling greens which are very well maintained.
There are couple of children's play area dotted through the park for different age groups some are in a better condition than others. The one that is in the worst state was only built by the council in 2010 at the cost of £85.000 so take into account that it is only 4 years old it is very poorly maintained. The safety matting has been ripped up under the slide and the grass is left to grow long under the climbing frames not to mention the Zip wire where the seat has been chewed by dogs. Add this to the litter strewn across the play areas and grass as well as the piles of dog poo everywhere and you have created a very unwelcoming park which should be an embarrassment to Northampton Council.
Now don't get me wrong it's not all the councils fault they don't make people drop there litter or make there dogs poo on the grass. But i have found in the past that if an area is well maintained litter free then people are more likely to respect the area if there is already litter on the flour then your empty coke can is not going to make much of a difference. But if there is no litter your coke can will stand out like a sore thumb and people will notice so they are more likely to use a bin. As well as if the grass is kept short and the play equipment is in good order people generally respect it. I have seen this first hand two new parks where build in the town where i used to live one by the town council and one by the county council. The park built by the town council was well maintained grass kept short no vandalism took place. The other park built by the county council was only ever cut once a month never maintained and suffered lots of vandalism. If it is seen that the place is looked after people do respect it more are are less likely to leave litter behind and let there dogs fool on the grass and cause vandalism. Improvements also drive away the alcohol drinkers and yobs as the more people that use the park they are seen more and soon move away from the area.
This park has great potential to be a fantastic resource for the people of Northampton but as it stands it is an embarrassment. I may be a park snob or have too higher expectations of what to expect from a public park but you only have to visit Bath or Lemington Spar to see the fantastic job they are doing with there parks.
We should have the same in Northampton a place for family's to spend there leisure time and also help attract visitors to the town.