Wednesday, 03 March 2021

Women want putting green to become community hub

Women want putting green to become community hub

TWO mothers want to convert the Henley putting green into an adventure golf course and “forest garden”.

The town council amenity in Mill Meadows would have a central area for use as a “community hub” and would be accessible to all, including people in wheelchairs.

Leslie Skinner and Laura Rushby came up with the idea after visiting Henley’s play areas with their two-year-old sons.

Mrs Skinner, a reception teacher, and Ms Rushby, former head of training and education at England Golf, say it would help connect people with the environment and improve their health and wellbeing.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s open and green spaces sub-committee on Friday, Mrs Skinner said: “With our boys we frequented the playgrounds in Henley in the summer and noticed that families who had children or adults with disabilities might find the parks difficult to use.

“We want to include a forest garden to build on the space, requiring very little maintenance, and a community meeting space so groups can come for outdoor learning opportunities and use it as a community hub.

“We were encouraged to pursue this idea and to incorporate golf. We started to get excited with the opportunity to create something that would open this space up and creatively engage with the area, including wheelchair users who traditionally find it difficult to access woodland areas and golf.”

Ms Rushby said: “Our vision is to connect people with the environment and the community to improve health and wellbeing.

“We are looking to create an innovative fun and natural space to incorporate a forest school and community hub that is open to everyone, regardless of age.”

The women want to split the space into five sections with the central space and four others representing the elements, earth, fire, air and water.

The areas would be planted to reflect each element, for example with blue, purple and grey plants in the water area and red, yellow and orange ones in the fire area. Mrs Rushby said three golf holes would be placed in each section, except earth, which would remain “natural”.

She added: “We are looking for it to be wheelchair-friendly and to make it a space that is positive for everybody. We have spoken to the River & Rowing Museum and we are looking to work with them to complement the facilities they have and the activities that they normally do with schools and nurseries.”

Mrs Skinner said the forest garden would be planted with native species and those able to adapt to a warmer climate so as to reflect climate change.

She said: “The innovative part of this design is to create a wildlife space in an urban setting, with golf, which we feel could be replicated elsewhere.

“We think that forest schools are fantastic and we are looking at creating opportunities for people to learn in cross-generational groups and connect the community and incorporating golf in that.”

Ms Rushby said they also hoped to incorporate “learning stations” so that when there were no golfers the area could be used for education.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, who was in the public gallery, said the putting green was “crying out for something to be done”.

He added: “We should be more ambitious. During term time it is quite quiet but this fills the gaps. Saturday and Sunday adventure golf and in the week a forest school.

“Companies could also hire it for an away day for teambuilding.”

Councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs the sub-committee, said: “This would really put Henley on the map for a new kind of thing.”

Councillor Sarah Miller said: “It is fun, educational, it ticks all the boxes. I know my kids would love it. It is a shame that the space isn’t bigger. I’m 100 per cent behind you.”

Councillor Will Hamilton said the proposal was “interesting” but he would rather retain the putting green as it was of high quality.

Councillor Ian Clarke said: “This will get vandalised or you put a 6ft fence around it.”

In 2015, the council scrapped plans to install outdoor gym equipment on the putting green in case it would affect Mill and Marsh Meadows’ Green Flag status.

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley or email

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