BRADFORD'S parks have long been a vital and much-valued part of the district's community.

This sentiment has been recognised with the number of Green Flags Awards given to them over several years.

In the latest round of the accreditation scheme, which rewards the best green spaces in the country, six Bradford parks retained their Green Flag status - Lister Park in Manningham, Peel Park in Bolton, Roberts Park in Saltaire, Harold Park in Low Moor, St Ives Estate in Bingley and Central Park in Haworth.

And it's not just the professionals who appreciate the hugh standards of the district's open spaces.

Rachel Taylor, 40, from Steeton, regularly visits Lister Park with her family for a day out.

"There is a lot to do for children of different ages. The park gives them the open space and the freedom to enjoy themselves,” she said.

Daughter Emma, 13, agreed: "It’s good for using my skates and good for the little ones.”

Lister Park has now won the Green Flag award for 13 consecutive years and the quality of its play area is one aspect that has helped it to achieve this.

Jack Taylor, six, said: “It was really good fun and I climbed up right to the top of the climbing frame.”

Also enjoying the park and its facilities was Sue Vincent, 51 from Wibsey who visited with her daughter and grandchildren.

"This is the best park and the best play area in the city. We like the pond, we like the lake, we use the gardens. It always feels safe and the kids like it too," she said.

The park has been used by the public since 1904 when Samuel Cunliffe Lister sold Cartwright Hall and it grounds to Bradford Council at a reduced rate with the proviso that it would create a public park and art gallery for the people of Bradford to enjoy.

"The park has been a haven for us," Mrs Vincent said.

"We come at least once a week in summer. Bradford has got some great places - you just need to put in the effort to get to them."

Several of the Green Flag parks have benefitted from substantial investment since the millennium which has dramatically improved them for visitors.

Lister Park had a £4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which was spent on a restoration project ending in 2002.

The traditional Victorian features that made the park so popular in the 19th century were restored, including the boating lake and the pavilion.

A new band stand and play area were also built and an Indian inspired Mughal water garden was created - becoming one of the main attractions.

Since its restoration a Friends group has been protecting its splendours.

This revamp was held up as an example to help secure funding to restore Roberts Park in Saltaire.

The park was part of Sir Titus Salt’s vision for his model village of Saltaire and was opened in 1871. A multi-million pound Heritage Lottery Fund grant helped restore the park to its former glory in 2010.

The park is another popular destination for families today, including the Bellerbys and their dog Mocha.

Lindsay Bellerby, 40 said: "We’ve cycled from Rodley. It’s a nice park; they’ve got the barge that sells coffee and ice cream."

Marie Stout, 41, from Guiseley added: "We have travelled quite a long way to come to Roberts Park because it is the best in the area.” She had come with her friend and their children to enjoy a cost effective day out: “The playground is good for children of different ages. It’s a good open space to run around and play games in and it’s all free, you don’t have to spend money."

Jacky Cooper, 43, added: "We can sit here, have a cup of tea and watch our kids play."

The access to the canal and River Aire that Roberts Park provides make it an excellent meeting point for people wanting to explore the local area.

Nicky Stables, 48, from Saltaire , said: "It is a nice place to meet up with the dogs. With the canal and river to explore there are plenty of walks."

Councillor Andrew Thornton, the Council’s Executive member for Environment and Sport, feels the Green Flag awards are proof that the city is making great use of its parks.

"This award recognises and highlights that people across the borough are benefitting from green spaces of the very highest quality. It also reflects the hard work of Council staff," he said.

He said the standard of the parks was key to what the Council was trying to achieve in Bradford.

"It’s really, really crucial that we have high quality park spaces for the public to use. We want to make the best possible use of all the green spaces," he said.

Parks across the city have a long history of providing fun and entertainment for local residents - Peel Park hosted its first gala in 1853 - and this summer is no exception.

Cllr Thornton said: “"There are all kinds of events taking place this summer in our parks. Several of the Friends groups run galas, many thanks to all the volunteers."

Some of the highlights this August include Cycle in the Parks events taking place across the city and activity days - which include inflatables, sports and team-building activities.