I don’t know about you, but the current lockdown has made me even more appreciative of our beautiful parks and open spaces.

We are truly blessed to have so many country parks on our doorsteps and, for many, they are a real lifeline. A place of tranquillity where we can forget about our troubles and put the awful events of the last 12 months behind us – even if it’s only for a fleeting couple of hours. They are perfect places to exercise, walk the dog or to take a gentle stroll in the fresh air.

Many people gravitate towards Coate Water and Lydiard because they are our biggest and most well-known country parks, but I would encourage you to try out some of our other parks as we really do have some hidden gems.

If you haven’t experienced the stunning views and historical setting of Barbury Castle I would urge you to do so, and let’s not forget Mouldon Hill, Stanton Park, Shaw Forest or even Pentylands Country Park.

A couple of months ago, my Cabinet colleagues and I backed our first ever country parks improvement plan, which aims to enhance the many jewels in Swindon’s crown over the next few years.

The key focus of the strategy is about making our parks sustainable and viable assets. We can do this by using funding from grants, Section 106 contributions, and other funding sources. It is important we protect these green lungs for the benefits they bring to people’s health and wellbeing, especially during the current time.

The improvement plan, which my cabinet colleague Coun Dale Heenan is so passionate about, has already identified a new waterside restaurant and café at Coate Water as a key priority and there are plans too to clean the diving board, which is such a striking feature at the entrance to the lake. Next week we hope to reopen the children’s play area at Lydiard Park after installing brand-new play equipment. This is thanks to £30,000 of investment we have made in the park.

The improvement plan is so important because our parks are there for everyone in the borough to enjoy and we want to hear what you think about them and how you would like to see them improved.

Advertiser readers can contribute to the improvement plan by filling in an online survey, which will capture people’s views on all our country parks. The survey is open until March 7 so please tell us your views so we can use them to inform the wider strategy.

The survey is at smartsurvey.co.uk/s/swindonparks

The investment in our parks is part of a wider plan to improve our open spaces and the biodiversity in our communities. These include our Swindon Forest Meadow project, which aims to create wildflower meadows in partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. We also aim to plant 350 hectares of trees through the Trees for Climate programme over the next few years. I am sure through such initiatives future generations will be equally appreciative of our parks in future years.