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Friends call it a day: Appeal for new helpers

An appeal has been made for volunteers to come forward to help maintain Witham Way Country Park.

For the past 16 years a passionate team has worked diligently to help transform the 38 acres into one of the prides of Boston. But now chairman, Peter Desforges, at the age of 78, has decided to hang up his gardening gloves. And the team of friends, family and colleagues that he forged into the Friends of Witham Way have also decided now is the time for them to take things a bit easier.

Peter, who became involved in the park almost by default, and ended up being Friends' chairman for 16 years, said: "It was a very difficult decision to make to dissolve the group."

He said it was made all the more difficult when, earlier this year, he was awarded the Robert Lauberts Environmental and Community Award because of his love of Witham Way Country Park.

The presentation was made after the judging tour for this year's Boston in Bloom Awards. The country park has been instrumental in helping Boston gain three gold awards. Peter said: "I couldn't speak when the award was made to me. I was just filling up."

Jen Moore, Boston Borough Council's environment and sustainability officer, said: "I have known Pete for a number of years through my environmental sustainability role. He has been the driving force behind the Friends group and is passionate about the country park. He has worked tirelessly, both with the Friends group and with Boston Borough Council parks and ground department, to make it a valuable and popular amenity for the local community and visitors.

"I know the decision to step down has not been an easy one for him. The council, the community and visitors to the park owe him a huge thank you."

Peter made his first suggestions about ways to improve the park in 2000. At that time there were only mown paths and for a good part of the year brambles ruled across the park. He also suggested ways to provide access for all abilities.

Then, at a public meeting called to form a park volunteer group, he was nominated and voted in as chairman and named it "Friends of Witham Way Country Park".

Over the years the group masterminded the footpath routes - hard and mown - tamed the brambles, planted trees and developed the popular picnic area. Led by Peter they fell into a weekly routine of cutting, trimming, planting and weeding, helping make the park a favoured location for Bostonians and visitors.

Peter designed the entrance board depicting the sun over the river and featuring trees and grass. This has become the park's logo ever since. Information boards have been added and school groups and others have been encouraged to become involved, helping establish an orchard for The Queen's jubilee, bug hotels and owl and kestrel boxes.

Use of the park has grown over the years as it has matured. What was once a barren expanse of allotments is now a delight of native tree species, tame and wild areas and a haven for wildlife.

Peter said: "It would be a crying shame it if slipped back now. I hope someone comes forward to carry on the work the Friends have done. It's not too onerous - about eight man hours a week keeps on top of it."

He said he would continue to be a regular visitor to the park - he lives about seven minutes' walk away, and would be happy to pass on his knowledge and pass on the Friends' equipment to a new group. He knows every square inch and almost everyone who passed by called out a welcome to him.

"It would suit someone newly retired with time to spare - as I had when I first became involved. It keeps you fit and active. People appreciate what they have here on their doorstep. We have had very little trouble in here because they know some of us are always around."

If you want to help carry on the good work of the Friends of Witham Way Country Park please contact Jenny Moore by calling 01205 314 583 or email jenny.moore@boston.gov.uk

Peter at entrance Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Peter Desforges at the entrance to Witham Way Country Park with the logo on the sign that he designed

Peter in picnic area Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Peter is particularly proud of the development of the picnic area. Dogs are welcome in the 38-acre park, but the picnic area is a dog-free zone