Friends of Priory Park
126. Christine Rich
Christine Rich, who lives in Dudley, has been Secretary of the Friends of Priory Park for the last twelve years. Her hard work and dedication has enabled the park to be enhanced to Green Flag status and enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each year. Five years ago, Christine set up the Wednesday Walkers Club, a group of like-minded older people who meet each Wednesday to walk around the park together, sharing stories and friendship as they go and enjoying a cup of tea with Christine at the end of the walk. Since the walking club was founded it has grown to almost 60 walkers, the oldest aged 89, and aims to have reached 1,000 miles of walking by January 2015.
Priory Park also recently received £2.6 million Heritage Lottery funding to carry out much-needed improvements to the parks including a refurbished pavilion, new toilets, improved accessibility and community events. Christine was integral to organising the bid and also ensured that part of the funding is used for local people to gain qualifications in subjects including horticulture, first aid and sports mentoring. To date, nearly 20 people have gained qualifications and there is an aim to train more people over the next two years.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Christine’s Wednesday Walkers club is helping to combat loneliness and giving her 60 fellow walkers a great way to keep fit. I’m delighted to make Christine a Point of Light.”
‘I am overjoyed at receiving such a prestigious award for something that I have enjoyed doing and will continue to do. I could not have achieved this without a supportive husband and small group of friends and volunteers who are always behind me. Thank you.’
Ian Austin, Christine’s local MP said:
“This is brilliant news. I’m delighted to see Chris recognised for the fantastic work she and her colleagues have done to transform Priory Park. We were in the park last Sunday afternoon and to see so many people playing football, basketball, cricket and tennis, as well as so many kids on the playground and families enjoying the park was fantastic – but it is all down to the hard work and commitment of Chris and her team. Imagine how much better things would be if every park had people like Chris working to improve things.”