Plans coming together for Linkage

Words by:
Mike Webster
Featured in:
October 2017

Eight years ago an initial bid by the Linkage Community Trust was made and accepted at Boultham Park and in June 2009 they bought a parcel of land within the park. This provided the initial foundation for an expansion plan, which is now nearing completion.
Initially, sixteen units for supported living were built and were officially opened by the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, Robin Battle, in March 2012. The proposed further development of the land was as inspirational as it was challenging. A brand new college campus, together with a café and horticultural glasshouse with other specialist facilities formed the overall scheme. Together with a complete makeover for Boultham Park by City of Lincoln Council, it has been a lengthy process of hard work and dedicated application by many people. The final stages of this creation are now in sight and it is certain to bring very satisfying rewards to many.

Linkage is a Community Trust that was formed forty years ago. From its inception with a starting point of just four students, it now caters for over 1,000 clients and students. It is the longest established specialist further education college in the whole of the country for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities and has proved to be instrumental in giving students an outstanding learning experience that can be tailored to every individual’s needs.

In addition, Linkage equips its learners with the ability to develop individual skills for independence, personal and social development and to gain qualifications enabling progression and wider life choices. The Education element of Linkage Community Trust also has campuses at Weelsby in Grimsby and Toynton near Spilsby and together with the new one at Boultham Park, they all offer core curriculum of English, maths, ICT and media, personal and social development as well as a wide range of vocational learning options unique to each campus.

The specialisms at Boultham Park will include hospitality and catering, delivered through the new café, horticulture, delivered through the brand new glasshouse and allotment areas and small animal care within a specialised area on the College’s site. The education curriculum offers non-accredited and accredited learning opportunities from Entry Level 1 to Full Level 2 status.

Community development worker Caroline Wallis brought me up to date with the very latest facts and figures. The whole project is a multi million pound investment in facilities at Boultham Park and of an original estimate of £4 million, successful bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund Parks for People have brought in to date £2.7 million. The project is a joint one between the Linkage Community Trust and City of Lincoln Council. Linkage has pledged to support the Capital Appeal with the sum of £250,000 and it has so far raised in excess of £125,000. The Capital Appeal is the cash that goes towards the Boultham Park Restoration Fund and this money has been raised entirely through charitable fundraising activities.

The chairman of the Capital Appeal, Philip Barnatt was overjoyed at the news: “What outstanding news, such a milestone for this important project – and a real testament to how much Boultham Park means to the community. From local business support to individuals using the Just Giving page, we are thrilled to reach £125,000. However, now marks the time to push the Capital Appeal even further and we’re calling the city to attention! We need everyone to go that extra mile and help us achieve this highlight in the park’s history.

“Let’s not forget also that this project is only possible thanks to people playing the National Lottery, so thank you to everybody for buying the tickets.”

Philip, who is a local businessman, is also a lifelong advocate of Boultham Park having spent many happy childhood years there.

The fundraising has been truly amazing with all manner of events taking place. A golf day was organised by Philip in June at Blankney Golf Course and plenty of bubbly fun was enjoyed at Boultham Park in August with walking, dancing skipping and a 5k run. In addition Linkage’s first venture into the world of retail took place with the opening in the Birchwood Shopping Centre of its first charity shop.

A scheme to ‘sponsor a stone for £10’ has been launched to promote further interest in the Boultham Park Restoration Project. This idea stems from the original ‘footprint’ of Boultham Hall, the family seat of the Ellison family and first owners of the park. With the Hall now long gone, the outline of the original structure is of interest to the historian and part of the park’s restoration plan is to re-lift and reset the stones in their original setting around the fountain garden. Sponsors will be invited to dedicate their stone to a loved one or even by marking their own personal interest in this beautiful park. The fountain is also receiving its own long awaited facelift along with some refurbishments to all the five bridges to be found within the park.

Another iconic part of Boultham Park is the bandstand and after its wonderful makeover and a great deal of TLC, it now presents a much more pleasing image over the park. The structure was eighty years old when it was taken down and removed by a company of specialist restorers called Lost Art in Wigan. It was decided that a far better job could be achieved if the bandstand was disassembled and taken to the restorers’ location. The past eighty years had taken their toll on the bandstand and some much needed care and attention by specialists was needed to bring this centrepiece to the park back to its former glory. Complete with a new durable zinc roof and new handrails the new bandstand will now have new stone steps.

A new weather vane featuring the Ellison Crest completes the outfit and all that is needed now is for the brass band to turn up and play. Reliable information informs us that the bandstand will accommodate bands of up to forty musicians.

The restoration of Boultham Park is as welcome as it is extensive. For generations of Lincoln people it has become a very much loved and treasured retreat both for relaxation and recreation. It does enjoy the special status of having been awarded a Grade II listing in English Heritage’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The registration is due to its special historic interest, warranting every effort being made to preserve it.

The fifty-acre park is to have a new café for the use of park visitors, accessible toilet facilities, new lighting and CCTV in the core area. Improved signage and footpaths are to be put in place with ongoing attention to the soft landscaping. Altogether, the improvement programme will generate even wider interest in this historic park and encourage the local community to become involved in this revitalised haven.

Caroline Wallis informed me that it was envisaged that this whole project will create many jobs and Linkage are currently advertising a number of vacancies for dedicated staff to work in the newly created facilities at Boultham Park. The Education Centre, Horticulture Centre, Community Café and the adjoining Care Centre all require staffing and volunteer openings are available across the city in various genres including care, community support and retail.

Linkage offers both residential and respite care as well as supported accommodation in more than seventy properties throughout Lincolnshire and even beyond. The college offers specialist education to both residential and day students, typically aged between 16 and 25 and attracts learners from parts of the UK, although primarily from Lincolnshire.

There has been a huge interest in the Linkage College at Boultham Park and the first students will be starting their studies here this autumn. The first cohort is a mixture of both residential and day students who will receive an outstanding learning experience tailored to their individual needs.

The college principal, Martin Shelton has said: “The college will certainly benefit the park due to its being able to meet the needs of the local community, identified through local surveys and Community Group meetings, and enjoy a customer base for the working environments of the college. The public will have access to the Café, Horticulture Glasshouse area and Small Animal Centre.

“The café will be providing a menu put together from local feedback and a section of the glasshouse will be devoted to the production and sale of garden centre items, as well as growing and selling the famous Ellison Orange variety of apple.

“The animal centre is also sure to be a key attraction as an element of a visit to the park and provide a learning environment for students as they develop their skills and achieve recognised qualifications in this area of the curriculum. The public will be able to see and discuss with learners the animals cared for by Linkage.”

It all appears to be a recipe for success for the students, learning and developing new skills, many of which will prepare them for future employment, in a realistic commercial and socially inclusive environment that underpins their education.

More information on Linkage Community Trust can be found at www.linkage.org.uk or visit facebook.com/linkagecommunitytrust, facebook.com/boulthampark and Twitter @LinkageCT and @BoulthamPark



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