Northern Ireland, Stormont Estate, Department of Finance and Personnel (Northern Ireland)

The political and administrative heart of Northern Ireland's government, Stormont Estate sits in a tranquil, picture-perfect landscape, often seen on the television and by thousands of tourists and other visitors. The Green Flag Award, insists estates supervisor Tom Wightman, is a must for such an iconic space.

"The Green Flag is very important because it sets a standard for all parks and for everyone involved in care and maintenance to work towards," he says. "It sends a good signal to the public as well as my line manager and team that we are achieving a certain standard.

"I also think there are a lot of good things to come out of the Green Flag Award, such as park management forums. Parks' staff can work in isolation and I like to think the Green Flags can pull us all together a bit more to enable us to share experiences, best practice and problem-solving."

He adds: "The Northern Ireland Assembly attracts a lot of visitors from afar, but the parkland is surrounded by large urban areas and this is a perfect garden for local families. It is also kept to an extremely high standard and, without doubt, that acts as a further draw."

The Department of Finance and Personnel for Northern Ireland has its own parks team but also contracts tree work out to M Large. The estate is about 160ha, half of which is open to the public while the rest is government estate land including the parliament buildings.

The estate is the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which sits in imposing buildings at the top of a hill in the north end of the site. But it is not all politics. Stormont Estate has a children's play park, a lime avenue and extensive woodland, all of which attract up to 3,000 tourists every day.

"Over recent years there has been a steady increase in tourism and the grounds are included on the route of Belfast city sightseeing tours," says Wightman. "They are also a destination for tours operated from cruise liners that dock in Belfast. The park therefore has truly international reach."

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