SERENADED in the sunshine by a brass band playing ‘It’s a Small World After All’, a colourful crowd in resplendent headgear gathered to celebrate the long-awaited opening of The Gerald Lee Pocket Park.
Measuring just 25 square metres, the park was created by a band of dedicated residents who transformed the site from a scrap of derelict land into a bright and colourful – if tiny – park.
Sitting under an advertising billboard on Victoria Road, it features an array of eye-catching flowers, seating areas, a bird box, bee hotel and even a miniscule pond.
Inspired by an idea from Darlington councillor Paul Harman, The South Terrace Residents Association – helped by supporters including the Darlington Guerrilla Gardeners and Friends of the Earth – spent months, but only £17, transforming the site.
Named in recognition of the environmentally-friendly work of Darlington’s mayor, Councillor Gerald Lee, the park will now be pitted against Prince’s Park in Burntwood, Staffordshire in a bid to be named the country’s smallest park.
The mayor opened his park with the help of local youngsters, cutting the ribbon to a fanfare from the Vintage Cockerton Brass Band.
Addressing the cheering crowd, he said: “I’m delighted to be here opening a park named after me and think everybody involved needs congratulating.
“They’ve taken pride in their community and have taken a derelict bit of ground and created such a beautiful area that will lift the hearts and minds of anyone going past.”
Looking her best in a flowery hat from Peacocks and a smart blue dress, eight-year-old Maya Watson helped with the opening ceremony.
She said: “I first started helping by taking out weeds and putting plants in and it’s pretty amazing seeing it like this today because at first I thought we might not be able to do it.
“It’s good it’s near South Park because that means there’s a big park and a baby park just round the corner.
“I was nervous helping but it’s been good – I think the mayor’s really nice and I’m glad the park’s named after him.”
Together with Councillor Paul Harman, the mayor is encouraging green-fingered people across Darlington to set up similar projects in a bid to improve the appearance of the town by maintaining other patches of derelict land.
He also said he was disappointed with recent comments made by council leader Bill Dixon criticising the naming of the park, saying political venom had no place in such a lovely community story.
Anyone interested in transforming plots of land in their neighbourhood should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01325 406648.