Backhouse Park, which has entrances in Ashbrooke and Ryhope Road, has a long history in the city and was originally the garden for Ashburne House.
Once the grounds for the grand family home of Thomas William Backhouse, he gifted the park, formerly Ashburne Park, to the Corporation of Sunderland in 1922 who named it Backhouse Park in his honour.
Hugely influential on Wearside, the Backhouses were Quaker bankers who had the house and gardens built for them. They left a rich legacy in the city and it was philanthropist Edward Backhouse who became one of the founding fathers of the Sunderland Echo in 1873.
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Like all city parks, the family’s former garden has become more popular in recent months after becoming a haven for nearby residents on their daily Lockdown walks.
To keep it looking attractive for residents, and to provide a safe habitat for wildlife such as its resident bats, woodpeckers and parakeets, a series of improvement works is forging ahead.
Last weekend the latest litter pick saw volunteers collect 17 bags of rubbish from the park, while also undertaking work to install bat boxes and tidy the verges.
Other ongoing works include the creation of a wildflower garden, extra signage, installing more bins, an annual photography competition and plans to make a fairy trail for children to follow.
Park ranger Daniel Krzyszczak from ICOS (International Community Organisation of Sunderland) works with Friends of Backhouse Park as well as East Rangers and the council to improve the area.
He said: “Backhouse Park is a unique park in the city. It’s very wild, and we want to maintain that, while also improving it for visitors. In the last few years we’ve been working with local schools to hold regular litter picks and to plant flowers such as bluebells. It helps to give them ownership of the park and helps them take pride in the city’s green spaces.”
The rangers are also working closely with the new owners of Ashburne House which, after being used for education since the 1930s, is a private residence once more after being bought as a family home by city property developer Henry Kirtley who is sympathetically restoring the building while honouring its history.
ICOS was recently awarded more funding through the council’s Neighbourhood Fund to continue their work and ward councillors Michael Dixon and Peter Wood say it’s fantastic to see the park blossom thanks to the work of the volunteers.
Cllr Dixon said: “Daniel and his team have made a massive difference to the park which because of Covid has been enjoyed by much greater numbers over the past year, and it is very reassuring to know that this work will carry on.
"ICOS has helped bring people together with volunteering and Daniel’s ideas such as the photographic competition, signage and bat boxes, along with regular litter picks, planting and general improvements, has seen great results.”
*Anyone interested in volunteering at the park can email Daniel on [email protected]