Use Places & People to search over 6,600 parks and gardens in the UK and 2,100 biographies of people associated with them. Image location: Bedgebury National Pinetum

Learn about the rich heritage of parks and gardens in Topics.
Image location: Powis Castle

Follow News & Events, updated regularly with the latest information affecting historic parks and gardens. Image location: Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Visit the Schools for ideas and activities to encourage the interest of children and young people in their local parks. Image location: Trentham

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View the Illustrated Glossary which provides definitions and accompanying images for terms and concepts associated with historic parks and gardens. Image location: Pannett Park

Exploring Historic Parks

Introduction

These suggestions aim to help you prepare children of all ages and abilities for a visit to a public park. You need not do all, nor follow them in sequence, but they offer starting points to focus a visit.
Park and go! suggests follow-up activities to a visit to a public park.

What is a park?

Show children aerial photographs of a park. Explain that this is what a park looks like from above [the sky]. Talk about what things they can see. How is the park laid out? How do people get around the park?

What is a park for?

Talk about why parks were created. Read and use history of public parks. Show a selection of photographs from how parks were used to reinforce understanding of their intended function.

Talk about who a park is for?

Find out why the park you are visiting was created. Who paid for it and why?

What’s in a park?

Explore further by showing photos of different parks seen from the ground. Show different features within them. Print them and ask children to match or sort them. For example, what is their purpose, who uses them, when they are used, what they are made of?

Park and go!

Use photographs and labelled sketches taken during your visit to make a large wall-display in the classroom.

What grows in a park?

Show children photographs of what grows in a park? Talk about why these things were planted in parks. For example: for decoration, their fragrance, as a protective screen, to divide areas of planting, to provide food and shelter for wildlife or to ensure there is always some colour throughout the year.

Discuss what happens to plants and trees at different seasons and how they change.

Talk about the difference between annual and perennial plants. Where do annual plants come from?

Which trees or shrubs produce berries, nuts, seeds or fruit?

Park and go!

Research which plants in the park might be used for medicine, fragrance, a fabric dye or to flavour food.

What things in our home are decorated with leaves and flowers?

What lives in a park?

Talk about what lives in the park .

Show drawings and photographs of wildlife. Ask why these species live there. What do they eat? Where do they live or shelter? What dangers do each encounter?


Park and go!

Design shelters or feeders for animals and birds.

How do parks change?

Discuss with children how parks are ever-changing environments. Look at how and why parks change. How will the park look in early morning and late evening or in different weather conditions? What changes happen over the cycle of seasons?


Park and go!

Give children a photograph of a park in spring and ask them to draw or paint the same scene at a different time of day or in a different season.

Who looks after parks?

Discuss who looks after parks and what is required.

Read or listen to interviews with park staff talking about their work and use photographs from looking after a park.

What precautions are needed to protect the flower beds, newly-planted saplings, ground surfaces, the park’s wildlife and its recreational facilities? Use protecting the park to aid discussion and photographs from damage and consequences .

Talk about how damage is caused and ways that visitors can be encouraged to respect the park.

Park and go!

Identify problems in the park and design signs that make the public more aware of potential damage that they may be causing.

Create an advert or job description for a park employee.

What can you hear in a park?

Listen to park sounds. They are grouped into two files: natural sounds and man-made sounds. Ask children to identify each sound.

Which sounds are made by animals, birds or insects?

Which are made by people and why?

What noises are caused by the weather?

Where and when might they expect to hear them?

Park and go!

In small groups record a sequence of sounds that tell the story of a visit to a park. Things to include could be footsteps, laughter, kicking a ball, leaves rustling, cycle bell, bird sounds and having a picnic.

How do people get around a park?

Discuss how people find their way around the park. Look at trails, signs and information boards and photographs of park plans . Discuss other ways used to help people find their way around a park. How could you help visitors or users who do not read English well? How have visitors’ routes around the park been made more fun or mysterious? For example, winding paths, hidden passages, different arrangements of steps, stepping stones, ramps, tunnels and bridges.

Look also at physical access. What provision needs to be made for people who cannot see very well? What about routes for people in a wheelchair, families with a pram or pushchair, or those with small children on a bike?


Park and go!

Use a plan of the park to create a board game. The objective could be to visit different areas of the park collecting objects by answering questions or responding to problems at each area.

Why do people come to a park?

Talk about the reasons people visit a park and use images from what people do in parks . For example, to meet people, admire the flowers, sunbathe, take small children to play, have picnics, to read, feed the birds, go fishing, walk dogs, fly a kite, play frisbee, crazy golf, cycle, stroll, jog, rollerskate or skateboard, play games, listen to music, watch events or watch the wildlife, learn about habitats or to enjoy the park in different seasons.

What activities do children like to do when they go to a park? Which do they do on their own, with parents, friends, as part of a group or in a team?

Why might their parents or grandparents visit a park?


Park and go!

Make a large class picture showing people at leisure. Look for photographs of parks in magazines to add features to the picture.

What games do people play in a park?

List all the games that people play in the park

Use playing in the park images to aid discussion.

Which games are provided by the park, often at a charge, and which are brought by people into the park?

Sort the games into who plays them – children, teenagers, adults or family groups.

What sports do people play in a park?

List all the sports and organised games that people can do in a park. Use park sports images to aid discussion.

Which are played at different seasons or all year round?

What facilities are provided by the park for different sports? For example, courts, pitches and tracks.

What else do people come to a park for?

Find out how the park is used for events throughout the year. Look and read notices of what happens in a park from parks around the country. Read noticeboards to find out what events are planned or have taken place in the park. Perhaps think about how these events are more widely advertised.


Park and go!

Create your own events programme and post them on the park notice board.

How do parks help promote a healthy lifestyle?

Talk about how parks are used to improve our health. What do people do in them to keep fit? Are there any initiatives to encourage people to use the park to keep fit?

Which sports are currently offered and for whom?

Are any sporting clubs based in the park?

During a visit children could look for other opportunities.


Park and go!

Plan a weekly healthy lifestyle programme for different groups of people using facilities in a park and post it on the park notice board.

What is special about the park?

How is the park different from others? What does it have that others don’t? How do people enjoy or use the park in special ways? Show marketing leaflets and talk about language used to explain the park’s importance, appeal and interest value.


Park and go!

Create information panels, using photographs taken during a visit to a park and children’s observations and responses. You could use the information panel template or create your own.