Park life leads
to a unique link up with Big Apple for Birkenhead youngsters
ADVENTUROUS youngsters had
a chance to stroll through America's most famous park without ever
leaving a Birkenhead shopping centre.
Young people taking part in the Junior Rangers scheme at Pyramids
communicated online through a specially designed "mission
control desk" with the organisers of a similar scheme in New York's
The pioneering summer programme, which is being run with support
from Wirral Council, is giving Birkenhead youngsters a chance to
enjoy regular live virtual tours of the park at the heart of the
City they call the Big Apple.
Central Park staff are using a mobile camera to walk around the site
with the footage being broadcast live via the mission control desk
on to a huge screen set up in a unit in Pyramids.
The link-up is the latest stage in the growing relationship between
Birkenhead Park, which is situated close to the shopping centre, and
The 2 urban "green lungs"
may be thousands of miles apart but they share close historical
links. Birkenhead Park, the first publicly funded park in Britain,
was the model for Frederick Law Olmsted's design of Central Park.
The first transatlantic link-up was a major success and saw around a
dozen Young Rangers electronically crossing the big pond under the
guidance of Birkenhead Park Ranger Paul Davies.
Seconds after going live at 2.30pm; 5 hours behind the New York
time of 9.30am; the young audience cheered as they saw Terry
Carter, Associate Vice President of the Urban Parks Institute and
also Director of Programmes for Central Park Conservancy, the body
that runs the park, appear on screen to say a big "hi" to those
watching more than 3,000 miles away in Pyramids. She said it
was a "gorgeous" day in New York and how thrilled she was to
be able to speak to live to the Young Rangers.
Accompanied by the camera held by
a colleague, Terry then began walking slowly through the sunlit park
until she reached the famous Hallett Sanctuary, a small wooded area
on the edge of the park where the public aren't normally allowed to
go. She explained how wildlife within the sanctuary; from
squirrels to wildfowl; had been carefully protected over the past
11 years by young volunteers, similar to the Junior Rangers in
The camera was trained on a
bubbling waterfall and birds bathing in a small pool amongst the
foliage as Terry explained about them.
As the half-hour session drew to a close, there were questions from
the audience. And, from Terry's answers, the watching
youngsters learned there are 275 different species of birds living
in the 843 acres of the park and that within its vast grounds lie no
less than seven lakes of different sizes. After Terry Carter
said her farewells, the Junior Rangers were buzzing about what they
had just seen on the big screen.
5-year-old Riley Gidman, from Rock Ferry, said:- "I thought
the link was really good because we learned so much about the park
in New York. It was also great because the lady was speaking to us
live from so many miles away."
Riley's mum Kathryn Gidman said:- "The link-up was amazing,
really. Riley loved it because he likes things about the outdoors
and nature and I thought it was fascinating too. We'll definitely be
coming back for the future live links from Central Park."
Also enthralled by the pictures
from New York were 4-year-old Maizey Hoyle and her brother Eliott,
6, from Wallasey. Eliott said:- "I really enjoyed it and
I'm glad I came. I like wildlife things so I was very interested in
what the lady was saying."
Their child minder Pat Harris, who had brought them along to
Pyramids, said:- "Today's technology is fantastic and I found
the whole thing very interesting as did Maizey and Eliott. I'll be
bringing them back to see future links over the next few weeks."
Birkenhead Park Ranger Paul Davies said:- "I'm delighted with
the way the first link-up went and I'm very appreciative of Terry
Carter and her colleagues at Central Park for taking time out of
their busy schedule to speak to us here at Pyramids. Over the
next 3 Friday afternoons we'll be linking up with them again when
they will show us other interesting areas of the park including the
famous Harlem Mere and one of the playgrounds, which should interest
the children watching here. I'm so excited about this
programme and delighted Pyramids Shopping Centre is supporting our
summer activities programme by providing investment and allowing the
ranger team to use a unit at the shopping centre."
Paul added:- "The fact that Birkenhead Park has such an
important historical link to Central Park is a fact that is becoming
more widely known. The mission control desk link-up is a great way
to celebrate the connection between the two parks. The virtual
tours will give our youngsters an idea of what Central Park is like
and also help them realise that with the rocks, fountains and lakes,
how similar their own park is to America's most famous public park.
We want to promote the use of Birkenhead Park and also promote its
history and heritage, including the link with Central Park."
Paul, along with fellow Birkenhead Park Ranger Paul Sinclair, were
invited to New York by Central Park bosses in April this year as
part of the close relationship that is being forged between the two
parks. That visit followed a visit by Central Park bosses to
Birkenhead last year.
The Central Park virtual tours is
just one aspect of the busy summer activities programme set up for
youngsters at the transformed unit at Pyramids Shopping Centre.
A whole host of other activities taking place over the summer at the
unit, which has been dressed to recreate the inside of a forest
using branches and camouflage, complete with woodchip on the floor
and a dedicated buggy park area.
The free summer activities will be available for children to enjoy
from 10am to 4pm and run every Monday, Tuesday and Friday until
Friday, 29 August 2014.
On Friday, 1 August 2014, a minibeast and face painting session will be
held. There are Gruffalo Days on Monday, 4 August 2014 and Monday,
2014, while a demonstration of country crafts such as basket-making is
planned for 5 August 2014.
A chance to make a bughouse and a face painting session will be held
on 8 August 2014 and a talk about bats will be held onn 12 August 2014.
On a historical note, Central Park is an urban park in the New York
City borough of Manhattan. It was opened in 1857 to 10 years after
Birkenhead Park; on 778 acres of City owned land and now covers 843
In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and
Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the
park. Construction began the same year and was completed in 1873.
Central Park is now the most visited urban park in the United
Designated a National Histroic Landmark in 1962, the park is
currently managed by the Central Park Conservatory under contract
with the City government and has an annual budget of $37.5 million.
According to Olmsted, the park was "of great importance
as the first real park made in this country; a democratic
development of the highest significance" a view probably inspired by his stay
and various trips in Europe during 1850. He visited several parks
during these trips and was particularly impressed by Birkenhead
Wirral Junior Rangers transformed a unit at the Pyramids Shopping
Centre with woodland into an indoor forest and children are den
building, looking at bugs and enjoying crafts and enjoyed a live
link up with Central Park in New York where youngsters will go on a
Skype virtual tour of the park. Central Park was modelled on
Birkenhead Park and Wirral Rangers at Wirral Council have been
fostering links with their equivalent in New York.
The 2 Pauls were kept extremely
busy during their two week stay in New York, sharing the skills and
knowledge they have developed during their years as park rangers in
Birkenhead to their counterparts in New York.
They gave presentations on subjects such as the history of
Birkenhead Park and its influence on the development of other urban
public parks, including Central Park. They explained their role as a
Ranger in a British park and particularly how British parks engage
and integrate with the local community. And they discussed the
success of the Forest Schools programme they have established at
In Forest Schools, pupils learn how to build dens, become aware of
the natural environment and discover history, maths, literacy and
science and their application in the natural world.
Paul said he was hoping a spin-off from the live Central Park
virtual tours would create closer links between New York children
and Birkenhead youngsters.
Commercial Director of Pyramids,
Derek Millar, who was watching the first transatlantic link-up,
said:- "I know Central Park very well. I've been there about a
dozen times as I'm a frequent visitor to New York, so it was
fantastic to see it live today. The whole thing was
fascinating and very educational and to have the opportunity to be
able to do something like this at Pyramids is just excellent. I'd
like to thank Paul Davies and Terry Carter and her colleagues at the
New York end for making this link possible."
Doug Blonsky, President and CEO,
Central Park Conservancy, and Central Park Administrator said:-
"Bringing live snapshots of Central Park to the heart of
Birkenhead is a great way to highlight the terrific partnership
Central Park Conservancy is fostering with the Wirral Rangers and
Birkenhead Park. In the same way that Central Park's designers were
inspired by Birkenhead Park over 160 years ago, we hope this virtual
exchange with the children and families on the Wirral will inspire a
greater sense of pride in Birkenhead Park and its significance to
the urban park movement."