|The Lancashire Evening Post, Thursday, 9th September 2006|
'The lungs of Preston' is how one dog walker described the city's parks.
And with more than 500 hectares of publicly owned parkland in the city, there's a lot of award-winning greenery to be explored.
Parklife is not just a Britpop anthem, but a way of life, especially in an industrial British city like Preston where there are no beaches or mountains to explore.
Instead, we have the Victorian Avenham and Miller Parks, near the city centre, with their terraced walks, floral bedding and fountains. Haslam Park in Ashton boasts formal rose gardens.
We all have childhood memories of our favourite park. Michelle McDowell, 32, enjoys exploring the delights of Avenham Park with her children Kirsten, eight, William, six, and four-year-old Nicole.
The family, from Garden Walk in Ashton, visit the park regularly for the rock gardens and fresh air. Kirsten said: "I like the fish and hunting for wild mushrooms."
Harvey Thorpe, Avenham and Miller Park manager, said: "There's a lot of people in Preston who live in terraced houses so getting to a park to get fresh air and to play games is important."
The parks play host to various yearly events including Easter egg-rolling, a dog show and a balloon festival. There are also around 40 other smaller events including treasure hunts and walks.
Mr Thorpe added: "We've got very well-maintained facilities, each park with a ranger. For Preston, it's something to be proud of because we've got so many big parks."
Restoration projects include a £1m pavilion in Avenham Park which will have a function room and cafe and will provide education sessions.
Richard Atkinson, 78, who was Mayor of Preston in 1986, walks his dog Scamp at Moor Park, next to Blackpool Road. He said: "I always come here to walk the dog and I've had him for nearly 10 years.
"My wife's from Dumfries in Scotland, and she loved Preston straight away - the people are so friendly."
In the 1990s Avenham Park famously hosted the Heineken concerts, with line-ups including The Boo Radleys and little-known The Spice Girls and Oasis.
This is something that 17-year-old Pete Sharples, of Westfield Drive, Ribbleton, would like to see return: "I come to Avenham Park quite a lot and I think they should have festivals here."
Preston North End Football in the Community coach Simon Hampson, 22, of Euxton, has run a children's soccer school in Moor Park.
He said: "We use this park all the way through the summer because it's handy and well-maintained."
Haslam Park is the latest to win a Green Flag award, which recognises clean, well maintained parks with good facilities.
Grange Park, developed from the grounds of Ribbleton Hall, has won the accolade for the past five years; Ribbleton Park, on the eastern side of Preston, for the past three.
Now the council aims to get Moor Park and Ashton Park to the same standard.
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|© The Lancashire Evening Post, September 2006|