Is Holywells Park the UK’s Best Park 2019?


Vote for Holywells Park!

Holywells Park is seeking support as the UK’s Best Park in a nationwide competition organised by green space charity, Fields in Trust.

The Fields in Trust UK’s Best Park, 2019 is now open for a public vote to select the nation’s favourite local park. A total of 364 public nominations for parks and green spaces across the UK have been made – and 37 of these are in the East of England region – each one a much-loved part of its local community. Now it is time to choose the winners via an online public vote (details below) until noon on Monday 19th August.

Richard Bloomfield, from the Friends of Holywells Park said,

“Holywells park is an amazing asset for Ipswich and lies just half a mile from the town centre. It is an oasis of wildlife with a diverse range of birds, small mammals, reptiles and over 30 different tree species. There is always something for people to do in the park which also houses a fantastic play area for children, plus a visitor centre and cafe. I would urge everyone who knows the park to please vote for us in the ‘best park’ competition”

You can vote cast your vote by clicking on the link below and searching for Holywells Park:

Voting opened to coincide with “Have a Field Day” on Saturday 6th July, the annual celebration of parks and green spaces. Over 250 community-led events saw thousands of people across the UK coming together for picnics with their friends and neighbours, to celebrate their parks and green spaces and join a movement of fellow park users who want to champion their green spaces for the health and wellbeing benefits they deliver and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Fields in Trust is a UK-wide charity that legally protects parks and green spaces in perpetuity. The UK’s Best Park Award recognises the role that parks play in our communities, supporting mental and physical health and bringing people together. The charity is concerned that many parks and green spaces are under threat and are at risk of being lost to development or a cycle of decline and disappearance. Last month Fields in Trust published research which revealed that over 2.5 million people across Great Britain live more than ten-minutes’ walk from a park or green space and the East of England region has more than 314,000 people whose nearest green space is more than 10-minutes-walk from home. With public sector cuts leading to pressure on parks and green spaces, there is the risk that a lack of legal protection could lead to more being sold off or developed.

Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths said: “Our parks and green spaces are a vital part of UK community infrastructure. We know that they provide benefits to the physical health, mental wellbeing and community connections for people that use them, so we are delighted to see a record number of nominations for the UK’s Best Park award and it is encouraging to see so many people organising picnics with neighbours to celebrate how much they love their local park.  Fields in Trust is committed to protecting these valuable and much-loved parks and green spaces for future generations to enjoy.”


Elmer the Patchwork Elephant at Holywells Park

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant at Holywells Park

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant at Holywells Park

The Friends of Holywells Park are delighted to welcome Elmer Nelly to Holywells Park. You can find him beside the Reception desk, inside the Stable Block, generally between the hours of 10:00 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon.

There are 54 other Nellys, but our Nelly is a very good place to start your collection! The trail around Ipswich will run from 15 June to 7 September 2019.

We are grateful to St. Elizabeth Hospice for organising the event, to Palletways for Sponsoring Nelly, to Ipswich Borough Council for providing Nelly with a home, and to Donna Newman for creating him.

Associated merchandise will be available from Holywells Park Reception shop.

Elmer’s Big Parade Suffolk is a ‘Wild in Art’ event in support of St Elizabeth Hospice – you can find out more information at


Upper Orwell Crossing plan to be dropped

Holywells Park PosterIt is great news for Holywells Park that the planned Upper Orwell Crossings main road bridge (bridge A) is no longer going ahead – see the Ipswich Star report here.

The additional traffic pollution, noise and other issues would have been highly detrimental to the future of Holywells Park.

Liz Harsant, Secretary of Friends of Holywells Park and local councillor commented, “Fantastic news for Holywells Park – it was the people who lived locally, led by Matthew Thomas who set up the RAG, who have had an impact on the decision“.

Richard Bloomfield from the Friends of Holywells Park added, “Genuine consideration for local people and the environment seemed non-existent. This is positive news for wildlife and for everyone who uses Holywells Park.”

You can find out more about our concerns over the impact of the Upper Orwell Crossings plan on Holywells Park by clicking this link.

White Elm Woodland – An Asset of Community Value

White Elm Woodland

White Elm Woodland

This unique woodland is rich in diversity yet positioned just to the East of Ipswich town centre. Wrapped around it is a vast community who for decades have benefited from it and cared for it.

It is protected by various policies, legislation and by the local community and this protection has enabled it to become a home to many insects and animals some of which are listed as protected species. For example stag beetles, bats, hedgehogs and toads. It is also home to a much adored family of foxes, tawny owls and muntjac deer.

This is a priceless asset to locals who have, over the years come together to protect the woodland from development by successfully objecting to planning applications, the most recent of which was this year. They have also now successfully had the woodland registered as an Asset of Community Value. This means that community groups have the opportunity to bid to purchase the land should it be put up for sale as they will have notice of sale and 6 months to raise funds.

Whilst the overriding priority is to protect the woodland and its wildlife, we believe it to be a significant asset to the local community and the indeed the whole town. We one day hope to purchase the woodland to protect it from any future development and it is possible we could set up a forest school scheme with local primary schools enabling teachers to take small groups of children in for a range of activities. These could include:

  • Insect and bird identification
  • Building new homes for insects, birds and bats
  • Stream and pond dipping
  • Tree and plant identification
  • Woodland management and tree planting
  • Learning new skills together
  • Archaeological investigations into the Victorian formal gardens remains
  • Possible reinstatement of the Victorian swimming pond to enhance wildlife

These activities would respect the wishes of the local community by being discrete, treading lightly upon the earth and not disturbing wildlife.

We have the support of a host of very experienced organisations who are keen to support our activities. They include:

  • Green Light Trust
  • Brickmaker’s Wood – Eden Rose Coppice Trust
  • Suffolk Wildlife Trust
  • Greenways Project
  • Friends of Holywell’s Park

All of this activity requires us to be organised and so we have set up a Community Interest Company – White Elm Woodland CIC – the directors of which been undertaking all activities to date. Next steps would be liaison with the owner and, we hope, fundraising activities so that we are in a position to purchase the woodland if he decides to sell. We already have over £10K pledged and would not envisage needing vast amounts of time to raise funds as the local community is large and we have much support.

We very much hope we get the opportunity to protect this special woodland forever and welcome support and the opportunity to learns from others experience.

White Elm Woodland CIC – you can contact Faye, the author of this article, via our website contact form


Liz Harsant, Secretary of FoHP at the opening of Tree of Rememberance

Liz Harsant, Secretary of FoHP at Tree of Remembrance opening

Holywells Park Baby Bereavement Memorial Tree Signs

The Baby Bereavement Group are volunteers that are supported by the Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity and they are hospital staff who commit extra time to provide support to grieving families.

In 2016, the group worked with the Parks and Cemeteries to provide a Tree of Remembrance within a Memorial Garden at Holywells Park.

Parents are able to have leaves added to the metal tree, with the name, date and a short message or remembrance.

The £960 will go towards the cost of signage so that the tree is easier to locate.




Is this the end of the Upper Orwell Crossings?

Holywells Park Poster

Holywells Park Poster

We have today heard from Suffolk County Council that the Jacob’s report commissioned by them into the finances of the Upper Orwell Crossings project have shown an overspend of over £40m.

With such a huge over-spend it is unlikely that this project will go ahead.

The main bridge would have caused many serious problems for Holywells Park (see out impact statement) and was deeply unpopular among most local residents in the Cliff Lane and Wherstead Road areas of Ipswich.

The government had pledged £77m for the project with the county council making up the rest – so effectively this pushes the council’s proportion of the bill up from £19m to nearly £63m!

A recent report has said that Suffolk County Council is looking at an £8.6 million overspend by the end of the year – see BBC article

Richard Smith, cabinet member for finance, said at Thursday’s meeting the council was not going to be the next Northamptonshire – “Other county councils are in a far worse state than we are, but if we don’t keep a firm grip on finances our savings will diminish and it is possible within four to six years we could be in a Northamptonshire situation.”

To find an extra £40+ million for a project which is unpopular with local residents and could worsen traffic congestion in Ipswich whilst having little proven economic benefit, would seem a poor reason to sacrifice vital local services.

Liz Harsant, Secretary of Friends of Holywells Park and local councillor commented, “hopefully this will be the end of a bridge no-one wanted that has worried local residents and caused distress to people thinking their homes were going to be demolished‎. Let’s hope this is the end but rest assured I will fight to the end for the people I represent.”

Robin Gape (Chair) commenting on behalf of the Friends of Holywells Park (FoHP) added,
FoHP is delighted to see clear thinking replace aspirational puff in relation to the Upper Orwell Crossings project. This project has the potential to do considerable damage to Holywells Park, the Waterfront—seen by IBC and many others as an up-and-coming entertainment centre—and local residents either side of the Orwell. Who would want to visit, or live in, an area, no matter how historic or entertaining, whose best features are suppressed by tawdry noise, air, visual, and light pollution. This project has always been bizarrely counter to Suffolk’s aim, espoused by SCC, to be the Greenest County.

One can only wonder at how such a sad disconnection between environmental policy and transport planning was allowed to happen. And then there is an apparent wilful lack of recognition of the two conservation areas that would be directly impacted. The project has exhibited a broken process, cutting across local democracy, and good sense, in a manner which one might reasonably assume Joe Stalin would have been proud of.

Jacobs Review (Review of Upper Orwell Crossing by Jacobs – PDF)

Suffolk County Council Press Release: Independent review of Upper Orwell Crossings costs published

Ipswich Star:


EqualiTeas, held in the Conservatory on 26 September 2018

EqualiTeas, held in the Conservatory

EqualiTeas was held on 26 September as part of the year celebrating 100 years since (some) women got the vote and are a government initiative.

On offer were Tea, coffee, cake and conversation!

We had a wide-ranging discussion about so many issues – where now for the Me Too impetus, supporting young women to feel strong and good about themselves, managing loneliness, putting yourself first and of course, wage equality, justice for WASPI women, supporting mums to stay at home with their babies if they want to….

and many more!

Do come to the Women’s Votes, Women’s Voices Festival on the 6th October – 9.30 onwards at the University and if you get the chance, come and see our promenade play happening on 29 September, 4&5 October starting in Arras Square, by tourist information at 11.30 and 2pm each day.


Delighted local people today (1 August 2018) after the news that the Upper Orwell Crossings Project has been ‘paused’ and the environmental & traffic threats to Holywells Park & Cliff Lane may now be averted.

Ipswich campaign groups relieved over Upper Orwell Crossing decision – 1 August 2018 (Ipswich Star)

Read article here

Are Ipswich’s new river crossings doomed? What will that mean for the town? – 1 August 2018 (Ipswich Star)

Read article here

County Council leader launches review of Upper Orwell Crossing costs – 31 July 2018

Read article here

Upper Orwell Crossing letters spark fear over buy-up of homes for Ipswich – 22 July 2018 Ipswich Star

Read article here

Concerns over the Land Interest Questionnaires (LIQs) – 22 July 2018

LIQs have been sent recently as part of the Upper Orwell Crossings project. Cllr. Liz Harsant has received messages from residents about the letter – some people are worried that their properties are going to be compulsory purchased. She has had lengthy conversations with Cllr. Paul West and comments,

Some of you have received a letter from Suffolk County Council which understandably has worried and distressed you as it almost appears that your property could be the subject of a compulsory purchase order to facilitate the bridge. I have spoken with Paul West (the Councillor with responsibility for this project) and he assures me that NO residential properties will be the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order or are required for the project. There are some businesses that may be affected in this way but the affected parties have already been contacted specifically about that matter by officers of the council some months ago.

More details about the LIQs can be found on the UOC website – here

The Woodland Mitre Way – 27 June 2018

Woodland Mitre Way. Aerial Photo: Bing Maps

Woodland Mitre Way. Aerial Photo: Bing Maps

Liz Harsant, FoHP Secretary and Holywells Councillor commented,

I am so delighted to say that the Woodland Mitre Way came to the Planning & Development Committee this morning for determination with Officers recommending approval in spite of huge opposition from local residents. Faye, one of the residents made a brilliant speech and myself and one other Councillor spoke and the Committee were then unanimous in refusing the application. There were many reasons why but Policies relating to the protection of trees and hedgerows, green corridors and the natural environment were but a few.

I just wanted to thank everyone personally who took the time and bother to write in to the Council objecting to this application it just goes to show the power people have when we work together. It is a real victory for you all.


It’s good to see the natural environment taking precedence over unnecessary development – hopefully the same will apply to the £100-150 million Upper Orwell Crossings! Read about our concerns here


BBC Radio Suffolk, Mark Murphy from the Protest on Cliff Lane, 11 May 2018


The following were interviewed:

  • Matthew Thomas, Rivers Action Group (from 1 min. 1.18 sec.)
    “Suddenly this will turn from being quite a quiet part of Ipswich to a very busy main road (with) the effect upon safety and the local environment especially the park…(Holywells Park) is a great resource for Ipswich”
  • Liz Harsant, Councillor for Holywells Ward and FoHP Secretary (from 2:54)
    “Until the County Council come up with some solutions for the Rivers area (and) Duke Street, Patteson Road, I will not be supporting the bridge… whenever we ask a question (about traffic) it’s fudged and that’s not fair”
  • Paul West, County Councillor for Bixley (from 4:24)
    “All views will be taken into account and it’s all about trying to get the benefits the bridge will bring in terms of reducing journey time for the whole of Ipswich, but mitigating as far as possible any adverse impact on a particular local area”

Ipswich Star – 11 May 2018

Campaign group voices fears over traffic impact of Upper Orwell Crossings on Cliff Lane in Ipswich – read the article here

Friends of Landseer Park

A new Friends of Landseer Park group is being set up. If you are interested in finding out more, please visit their website from the link below:
Friends of Landseer Park website

We would like to know what you think about the Park and it’s open spaces

Complete the survey here:

Holywells Park Survey
The Holywells Park Heritage Lottery Project is nearing completion and the information you provide in the survey will help us to improve the facilities and the way they are managed. Specific comments at the end of the survey will give us the best insight into visitor experience.

See the PDF visitor-survey
Complete the survey here:

You can also pick up a copy of the survey from the Stables Cafe or Reception

Liz Harsant on BBC Radio Suffolk talking about Holywells Park

Liz Harsant

Liz Harsant, Secretary of the Friends of Holywells Park (FoHP) promotes the Park, the FoHP group and the “Welcome Spring” Park Event (24th March) on Jon Wright’s BBC Radio Suffolk programme today (25/2/2018).

Friends Meet the Mayor of Ipswich

Sarah Barber, Friends with Mayor of Ipswich, 2017-18

Some of the Friends of Holywells Park pictured with Sarah Barber, Mayor of Ipswich, 2017-18. The Mayor wanted to personally thank the Friends for their work in the park. The Friends were also shown around the rooms in the Town Hall which the Mayor uses for official occasions and saw the silver gilt mace presented to the town by Charles II – this is still used at Council meetings together with the Sword.  20/2/2018.

Holywells Park 2018 Calendar

Holywells Park 2018 Calendar

The calendar features a fantastic selection of images of Holywells Park throughout the year. If you love Holywells Park you can buy the calendar from the reception in the Stable Block – only £6

Visit to the Red House, Aldeburgh 1st July 2017

The Red House, Aldeburgh is the home composer Benjamin Britten shared with his partner, the tenor Peter Pears.

A group from the Friends of Holywells Park (FoHP) had a fantastic tour of the Red House. They also viewed the gallery (which has permanent and changing exhibitions), Britten’s composition studio and the beautiful gardens.

FoHP can certainly recommend a visit to anyone who admires Britten’s music or who simply wants to view a historic house with charming gardens in the beautiful coastal town of Aldeburgh. For more details visit the Britten-Pears Foundation website here.

FoHP visit the Red House Aldeburgh

FoHP visit the Red House Aldeburgh

Would culling magpies save our songbirds?

MagpieThe Holywells Park Manager Nick Wilcox has had a request from local residents as to whether anything can be done about the growing numbers of magpies who seem to be “killing all of the song birds”. Magpies are a protected species and some bird campaigners believe other factors are responsible for the population drop of song birds, such as the removal of their traditional habitat and food sources – for more details of problem wildlife, click here

Despite billions of pounds being paid to farmers to protect bird habitats and numbers, song bird numbers are still dropping. Some experts have called for culling of magpies

Your views…

Can we do anything?  Should magpies be culled during the breeding season? What else could be done do you think?
Please let us know your views via details on our contact us page and/or through social media. You can also email Liz Harsant, Councillor Holywells Ward,

Scarecrow Tea Party – 13 May 2017

See pictures from our Scarecrow Tea Party in the photo gallery.
After the crowds had gone the orchard was occupied with a different crowd…

Scarecrow Tea Party

Scarecrow Tea Party 13 May 2017

My Place Project

This community printmaking initiative had a small amount of funding from the Friends of Holywells Park.
“The lovely project held in the Conservatory in Holywells Park came to an end yesterday with a tea party for all those who took part. Next week will be an exhibition of the printmaking that this group of local British and Asian women from the Holywells area of Ipswich perceive their place to be, in their homes, families, communities and the wider world. It has been an honour to be involved in this project”
Liz Harsant, FoHP, 20 April 2017

My Place Project


The prints that the local British and Asian women from the Holywells area created as part of the My Place Project were exhibited in the Dance East art gallery (see pictures below). The project was free to participants as it had been funded partly by Suffolk County Councillors, Oyster Community Press CIC and local charities. It was good to have the Mayor of Ipswich Cllr Roger Fern open the exhibition at Dance East. After the exhibition all the participants were given their work to keep.

The ladies enjoyed the project so much that they are meeting up for coffee once a week in the stable block at Holywells Park and have committed to help Oyster Press with their new premises in Tower Street.

My Place Project

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Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund (BIG)

Ipswich Borough Council received a grant of £2.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund (BIG) for the Holywells “Parks for People” restoration project in July 2012.

The Council submitted the “Parks for People” bid to regenerate one of the town’s hidden gems to conserve and enhance the Park’s unique heritage as well as provide more attractions for visitors.

The HLF grant was supplemented by funding from the Friends of Holywells Park and by the Borough Council.

Among the improvements made possible by the grant was the renovation of the Stable Block, converting it into a vibrant visitor centre and café with an education area and function room. The conservatory has been refurbished and turned into a multi-function area that can be used for exhibitions, talks, meetings, functions, etc. The existing walled garden now has a performance area that is being used for small scale theatre, dance, school and community groups. A new toilet facility and kiosk selling light refreshments is now provided adjacent to the play area.

Other areas of the park that have been improved are:

  • facilities in the leaf yard for park staff and volunteers
  • entrances improved and made more welcoming
  • new and refurbished footpaths around the park, allowing greater accessibility
  • new CCTV providing greater security
  • new benches and seating
  • interpretation panels of the parks heritage and environmental features
  • a new Trim Trail and I-play equipment aimed at teenagers.

The funding will also enable a series of events and activities to take place within the park that will encourage its increased use by a wider and more diverse audience.