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Urgent appeal to help keep Warley Woods beautiful as funds dwindle

By Dayna Farrington | Smethwick | News | Published:

A trust which looks after an award-winning Black Country park has launched an urgent appeal for help as it struggles to survive.

Warley Woods in Smethwick

The Warley Woods Community Trust said it is struggling to maintain the Smethwick beauty spot with a lack of funds – and has been digging into savings for the past year, which are slowly running out.

Trust bosses are now calling for residents to donate cash or make a monthly donation to help assist the trust with the upkeep of the park, otherwise the group could fold under.

A statement on their website said: “If you want Warley Woods to survive and thrive and to maintained for you and future generations, then if you can, please start helping financially today. Thank you.”

Warley Wood park users celebrating the woods being named as one of the country's top 10 parks last year

The popular beauty spot has been named as one of the top 10 best parks in the country for three years running by Keep Britain Tidy, after a public vote. It also took gold in the Royal Forestry Society Excellence in Forestry Urban and Community Forestry Awards in 2017.

In the past year, the trust has had to spend £4,000 to rebuild the floor under the kitchen and £33,000 on a tree works bill, while it costs them £7,000 a year to empty the bins.

Their website states the situation is 'unsustainable' and in a few years savings will be used up, resulting in the community trust folding.

'Lungs of Smethwick'

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Trust vice-chairman Arthur Ward said the woods were the 'lungs of Smethwick'.

Mr Ward said: "Warley Woods is 100 acres of woodland in the middle of Smethwick. It is the lungs of the area.

"It is going to be hard to be on budget and extreme weather last year had an impact – we had a lot of tree damage last year.

"We are in a tight spot like a lot of charities. We have thousands of visitors every year and it is a popular park."

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Viv Cole, the Warley Woods Community Trust’s manager, said in a statement: “The photos on Facebook tell us that day after day. But that is just the beautiful surface.

“Underneath the veneer of the Green Flag Awards and the UK’s Favourite Park banners we are struggling.

“We have been struggling all year and now we really need to ask for your help. This is not a general appeal, it is a crucial appeal.

"Budgets are monitored closely, we work on new income ideas. Those swans - trustees, volunteers and staff work stoically to deliver our plans.

'Hard graft'

"We have been doing it for 15 years, but it just doesn't seem to be enough. Our savings are small and our liabilities are huge. This year we will be spending from our savings just to survive.

“People stepped up when the travellers invaded Warley Woods and they stepped up when all the rose garden benches were burnt and destroyed.

"This situation is just as real and actually more potentially damaging, but it is ongoing and largely invisible to someone walking the woods.

“It is not a beautiful space by accident, it takes hard graft.

"People say they are lucky to have Warley Woods, but it isn’t kept so lovely by luck.”

Sandwell Council leader and ward councillor, Steve Eling, who is also chairman of the trustees for Warley Woods added: "The extreme weather in 2018 has impacted on the trust and is making the 2019/20 budget very tight meaning extra fundraising is needed.

"It is always a problem when both costs and income generation are weather dependant.

"I would encourage people to support the trust's appeal."

To donate to the Warley Woods Community Trust, visit www.warleywoods.org.uk/appeal/keep-our-warley-woods-swans-afloat.

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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