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Pathways Consultancy were brought in by the National Trust and the team at Stowe Gardens with the aim of better understanding the surrounding community and exploring ways of working with partners in the community to make use of Stowe as a resource, and to strengthen local connections.

We were asked to focus on ‘hard to reach’ audiences, particularly those from more deprived sections of society. Our task was to begin making contacts with these groups and find out how they may be interested in accessing Stowe, and whether they would also benefit from Stowe team members going into the community and sharing their experiences in the groups’ own space.

We enjoyed the chance to work with the team at Stowe and deepening our understanding of the issues facing such a site. It is hoped that this work could feed into wider change within the organisation.

Four years ago Pathways supported Alexandra Park’s bid for lottery funding by running an exciting Spaceshaper event in which over 40 people gave their views on how well the park worked for the community. The Spaceshaper event in 2010 included: a welcoming buffet lunch; one to one questionnaires; a walk around the park to assess eight key areas of the park’s performance; a facilitated discussion to assess the quality of the Park and it ended by setting goals for key areas of the Park’s development.

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We were therefore really happy to be invited back this autumn to see how the work on the Park has progressed since it won Heritage Lottery Funding and to facilitate discussions about how local people might be involved in the long term management of the Park.

This kind of work is very close of our hearts – we really enjoying supporting projects in green spaces to become clear about what they are doing and how they can do it better. For example in the last few years we have: worked to support community engagement events in Dunwood Park, Oldham; evaluated work in the Lake District’s Fix the Fells project and helped to facilitate discussions between environmental organisations on possible partnership work around peat conservation.

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Between March and June 2013 we worked for Yorkshire Peat Partnership to explore the issues around the possible creation of a strategic Peat Partnership covering the whole of the Pennine Chain from the Scottish borders to the Peak District. Valuable work is already going on to restore degraded upland peat bogs but could a strategic partnership tap into other funding, co-ordinate work and speak collectively to regional and national bodies? Our work to assess the appetite for the partnership involved 62 in depth interviews and three stakeholder workshops.

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