It’s pretty unusual to be able to count two of Canterbury’s finest open spaces as your office – but Sadie Williams can do just that.
Sadie recently joined the city council as its new Parks Community and Development Officer, after 17 years in the youth services team at Kent County Council. She has specific responsibility for the Westgate Parks and the Dane John Gardens, and as a local girl who loves the outdoors and working with people, it’s safe to say it’s her dream job.
“I’m very passionate about the environment and the whole ‘love where you live’ campaign, so matching this interest to the skills I have and my experience of community work – especially with young people – means it’s perfect for me,” she says.
“I love talking to people and hearing their ideas, and getting things done to improve the area. I’ve been coming to these parks for years with my children – they really are such special places.”
Sadie is the council’s eyes and ears in the parks, reporting problems such as graffiti, overflowing litter bins and anti-social behaviour. It is not an enforcement role, but she has a direct link to the council’s enforcement officers and the Serco maintenance team, as well as the police should there be criminal activity to report.
She says: “I split my time equally between the two parks and I’m in them every weekday, picking up on issues and getting them resolved. Most of them are quite low level – vandalism, graffiti and litter – but if left untackled can quickly affect the appearance of the parks.”
Her other key area of work is improving links with the community and encouraging greater public involvement. There is already a very successful and active Friends group for the Westgate Parks and Sadie is hoping to replicate this at the Dane John.
The council also has ambitions to regain the Dane John’s Green Flag in the years to come.
“There’s lots of work to do on this,” Sadie says. “But we know there are plenty of residents out there who love the Dane John and we want to harness that passion and bring them on board. If we can get that flag flying again at some point, it would be fantastic.”
There are big plans for the Dane John in 2019, with a new children’s play area and enhancements to the lighting and paths all in the pipeline.
But for now, Sadie is simply getting stuck in to her new role. She adds: “I’m just enjoying meeting people, getting to know the residents and chatting to visitors. It’s by far the best way to find out what all the issues are.”