Warley Woods Community Trust was the first community organisation in the UK to have taken a public park out of local authority management and run it themselves.  It has now been managing Warley Woods for 20 years.

It created its own management model – with the community involved as Trustees, subgroup members, volunteers and Trust Members: 15 Trustees; 1500 members and 230 volunteers give time every year.  Over the 20 years 63 people have been Trustees and two are original Trustees – showing a combination of both continuity and renewal that has helped the Community Trust mature and thrive.  Community members are involved in every aspect of what happens on site.

The Community Trust created its own financial model – with a mix of earned income, council support and donations from the community.  Our public golf course has gone from strength to strength and the community now contributes more than £100,000 a year towards running costs.  A unique way of funding a public park in the UK.

The Trustees and staff had to learn how to manage a green space and they did that using the Green Flag model.  Green Flag is judged over a set of criteria relating to maintenance, community involvement, marketing, environmental management and heritage management.  The Award was conferred on our first year of application in 2009 with the highest score ever for a park being entered for the first time and it has seen a new flag flying every year since then.  Every year since 2016 members of the public have voted the park one of the UK’s favourites.

20 years has seen a huge number of physical changes, with restoration of park features, investments in new features such as a play area and a wildlife area.  There has been a recognition of history, new tree planting and investments in biodiversity.  Millions of pounds have been raised and millions invested into the site.

For the community to get involved there are now a whole raft of events.  This started with the Picnic in the Park – a music focused community event and now this is the jewel in the crown of an events calendar that numbers more than 25 each year. These are only the Trust’s events – the Trust’s success as a community venue has encouraged many other groups to use the site for their events from cross country runs, to festivals of light.  The park has become a true community centre without a roof.

There have been difficult moments, illegal soil dumps, vandalism, a traveller incursion and covid-19, but the community support has been tenacious and robust.   When the Trust began its tenancy of Warley Woods with 99 years on the clock in 2004 – that lease length felt forever but now 1/5 of the way through – it has gone like a flash.

There is more to do and the Trust still hasn’t achieved its biggest ambition to build a new building, worthy of the beautiful location everyone loves and better able to serve all site visitors.  With all that has been achieved so far, it can only be a matter of a little more time and tenacity.

Steve Eling brought the community together in 1996 to form Warley Woods Community Trust and has been the Chair of Trustees ever since.   He said:

The park was in ruins when the community came together to do something about it. Pathways had disintegrated, trees had fallen and fencing collapsed. In fact it was all in a state of decay. It was the venue for joy-riding stolen cars and setting them on fire.  
“The first lottery parks programme gave us some hope, but even with that it was not easy. Legal obstacles were put in our way and the doubters said we would fail within months. Well, they were wrong. We have overcome all the difficulties through sheer determination by the community, the Trust staff and an army of volunteers. The generosity of people towards the park is fantastic and has been essential over the years.    So, twenty years on, we have set the standard of a national exemplar in how we operate, and are one of the country's favourite parks. Everyone involved can feel rightly proud, there is no other park like us. ”

Viv Cole, Trust Manager, has been at Warley Woods for more than 17 of those years and she said:

 “We’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who had faith in this small locally germinated organisation with big ambitions and a whole lot of heart and hope. Thank you to those who have supported with time or donations from the beginning and those who have joined us more recently.  It could not have been done without you – and there is still more to be done!”

We begin a year of celebrations officially on 1st April 2024 at our Easter Egg Roll and they will continue until 31st March 2025 with a series of events and publications.

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