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Kirkwall celebrates new green haven

Celebrations were felt all across Kirkwall as a new £670,000 community park and event space was officially unveiled.

Neighbourhood biodiversity

Located in a residential area to the east of the town, Papdale Park encompasses a sprawling network of meandering paths and modern landscaping initiatives that have truly transformed the space for the better.

Delivered by Orkney Islands Council in partnership with Sustrans through Places for Everyone, Papdale Park provides the Kirkwall community yet another place to enjoy for the year ahead.

Key features of the park include a deculverted burn, an array of walking, wheeling, and cycling routes, as well as native shrubs and trees, and a wildflower meadow for enhanced biodiversity.

Landscaping iniatatives such as a deculvated burn were incorporated into the designs of the park. Credit: Orkney Islands Council, 2022.

This is topped off with a stunning community plaza and new road crossing linking the park to Kirkwall Grammar School to ensure trips are as safe and accessible as possible.

Further excitement still awaits, however, as this only marks the completion of the first phase of the Papdale Park project.

Once funding is secured through Places for Everyone for the second phase of work, plans can begin to take shape for the creation of an all-ages-and-abilities play park for local residents to enjoy.

A community vision

Plans for the Papdale Park originated from a series of engagement sessions held in 2018, delivered by Orkney Islands Council as part of the Your Kirkwall Place Plan.

During these sessions, local community group Papdale East Play Association (PEPA) brought forward a range of ideas on how to improve the existing but dilapidated play park, complementing neatly with the wider aspirations of the community.

A meandering network of paths provides a safe and accessible route to school for pupils of the local Papdale Primary and Kirkwall Grammer Schools. Credit: Orkney Islands Council, 2022.

The project was also borne out of the Council’s Play Area Strategy, which identified Papdale East as an area where opportunities for play were in need of improvement.

On these solid foundations, emerging plans were then carefully shaped in accordance with considered community feedback in order to ensure the best design possible was ultimately produced.

The resulting blueprints laid out an ambitious vision for a new community greenspace for people of all ages to enjoy, smartly futureproofed against the impacts of climate change, changing technology, and an anticipated rise in active travel.

A memorable occasion

Despite being informally open since the end of last year, local Orcadians turned out in good number to see the ribbon cutting and Papdale Park officially opened.

Held on Friday 21st April, a series of speeches and guided ecology walks were available to those in attendance. Free cycle servicing and an e-bike display were also provided to attendees.

Local residents and project partner representatives turned out on the day to see the ribbon cutting. Credit: Orkeny Photography, 2023

PEPA, who were instrumental in the design and engagement of the Papdale Park project, were also on hand to provide refreshments, a bake sale, and a special treasure hunt.

Karen McGregor, Scotland Director at Sustrans, was delighted with the collective effort that went into making the park possible. She said:

“Papdale Park is a project designed by and for the local community, which is what underpins its success.

At every step and pedal of the way, we engaged closely with residents to find out what they wanted and how they wanted it.

We are grateful for all the input received and look forward to seeing work continue to ensure Papdale Park remains a much-loved local landmark for generations to come.”

Karen McGregor, Scotland Director, Sustrans

The ribbon itself was cut by Orkney Islands Council Convener Graham Bevan. Flanked by pupils attending from Papdale Primary School, he said:

It is an honour to be asked to perform the official opening of this new, much improved community park space within Kirkwall which is for everyone to enjoy.

“It is so important to retain green spaces within our towns as we all know how important getting outdoors, enjoying some fresh air, exercise, greenery and wildlife is to our physical and mental wellbeing.”

Graham Bevan, Convener, Orkney Islands Council

Building on success

Papdale Park marks the third major project to be delivered on Orkney in quick succession through Places for Everyone.

The Places and Spaces project helped deliver key street layout changes to make getting in and around Kirkwall town centre safer and easier.

Sustrans also worked closely with Orkney Island Council to complete the development of the Arcadia Park, which provides an attractive path network and landscaped link to Balfour Hospital to the south.

Arcadia Park opened in the south of Kirkwall in 2022, providing a lushious greenspace for active travel and relaxation. Credit: Sustrans, 2022.

£670,000 was allocated for the Papdale Park project, provided by Orkney Islands Council, NatureScot’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund, and Places for Everyone, an active travel infrastructure programme funded by the Scottish Government and administered by Sustrans.

Additional funding for the project came from a Cycling, Walking and Safer Routes grant allocation and the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund. Design work was funded by HITRANS.

The project has also been supported by the Orkney Woodland Project and The Woodland Trust and the work carried out by Andrew Sinclair Contractors.

Already becoming a cherished community asset, Papdale Park is yet another success story for active travel opportunities in Kirkwall.