A few thoughts on Green Flag Awards

I have been a Green Flag Award judge for too many years I care to remember, almost from day one and it was thanks to my old park manager, Jim Moody from Middlesbrough who persuaded me to do. I have judged parks all over the country, from Whitehaven, to Newcastle, to the Wirral, via Preston, across to Rugby, many in London and surrounding counties and recently down onto the south coast and across the Channel to Jersey. I am also now an international Green Flag Judge and had the joy of heading to Istanbul to assess some of their parks. It was February and it was freezing, and even trying to keep up with Carl McLean didn’t keep me warm.

The essence of my ramblings is two-fold.

  1. There are many benefits to being a a Green Flag Judge. You get to see fantastic parks and the odd occasional one thats not up to scratch but are there to offer sound views and opinions on that park. I am a parks geek so I get double joy. This year I judged Ellington Park in Ramsgate and Alexandra Park in Hastings – both superb parks and worthy winners of Green Flags this year. The people you meet are fascinating, not just fellow parkies but those who volunteer. I met Aimee in Ellington Park and sat with her for long chats about her life, her love for the park and her love for Ramsgate. These conversations are so fulfilling. What better way to get out of the office and away from your own inbox and meet like minded souls in wonderful environments. It is a joy.
  2. Secondly- the joy of getting an award. The rewards of the work and efforts we all put in, from the parks team, grounds maintenance, the volunteers, the ward councillors and the council as a whole. Whilst judging this year, I was surprised that one authority had submitted for Green Flag because it had to as  a condition, as a result of getting a lottery award. I had a long conversation with the park manager and regaled him with the benefits of getting an award and surely they had others they could submit. It got him thinking so I am hoping Thanet Council will submit more next year. One isn’t enough! Another authority I judged for are regular winners but they don’t celebrate their achievements. I found this very bizarre. I made a huge thing of this when I worked in Watford and will do so in my new authority in Southend-on-Sea. Celebrate with your teams and your communities and get your portfolio holder out holding that flag. It is what it is all about.

I have been an advocate for Green Flag for years and will continue to do so and when I retire (eventually), Green Flag will be part of my retirement plans. The more the merrier.

Well done for all those winners this year.

Paul Rabbitts

Head of Parks and Open Spaces

Southend on Sea City Council

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