A major initiative is underway to promote and enhance Worcester’s hugely popular riverside as one of the city’s parks, with the aim of boosting its appeal to tourists and city residents.
Worcester City Council has joined forces with the Environment Agency and the Canals and Rivers Trust (CRT) to take the idea forward, and has today held a workshop to get the input of more than 20 local organisations, including businesses, sports bodies, charities, schools, colleges and the University of Worcester.
The aim is to work in partnership to develop the Riverside Park, stretching from Northwick down south to Cherry Orchard Nature Reserve – a distance of around 3.5 miles – so that it has all the attractions and facilities of Worcester’s other top parks.
Hopes are high that the Riverside Park will in the future secure a Green Flag, the national award scheme that recognises and rewards the very best green spaces across the UK.
The new initiative will build on the major revamp of the riverside in 2010, when £5 million was jointly invested by Worcester City Council, Worcestershire County Council and UK charity Sustrans – which works to encourage people to travel by foot, bike or public transport – in the creation of the current two mile walking and cycling route.
Councillor Jabba Riaz, the council’s Cabinet member for Clean, Green and Leisure Services, told the workshop at Worcestershire County Cricket Club’s ground: “With the recent investment, we have seen the riverside blossom and become alive. Figures show that the usage of the Sustrans Bridge at Diglis is going through the roof, with an average of 371,719 crossings per year by walkers and cyclists. That’s 12 times more than originally expected!
“This bridge has opened up the city and it now means commuters and leisure visitor have easier access, with Worcester becoming more connected than ever before.
“The opening up and use of the riverside has created a brand new world of opportunity and my vision for the Riverside Park is that it becomes the jewel in the crown of the Faithful City.”
Cllr Riaz told the workshop that one of the aims of the Riverside Park is for it to be accessible to all.
He said: “Not only will this enhance the city for all of us who live in Worcester, it will make Worcester a destination of choice for tourists, businesses, for anyone who wants to be on the water, for those who love wildlife and for many, many more.
“I believe the pursuit and completion of a Riverside Park that achieves Green Flag status is vital in putting the Faithful City firmly on the national and international map as a destination riverside city.”
The workshop also heard from Dave Throup, Environment Agency Manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, who urged attendees to help Worcester become a great example of the Love Your River campaign, an initiative that aims to raise awareness of how the use of water in our homes and businesses affects the health and wellbeing of our local river.
Speakers also included Nick Worthington, CRT Waterway Manager, who discussed the charity’s work in improving the Worcester river environment for boat users and wildlife. This includes allowing volunteers to make use of the Trust’s “community workboat” for initiatives like graffiti removal and managing vegetation on the towpaths, and plans to redevelop the historic workshop buildings on Diglis Lock Island.
The City Council will now build on the workshop to work with partners across the city to develop a full vision for the Riverside Park and a co-ordinated management plan that will underpin an application for Green Flag status.