FOUR Halton parks have been given the Green Flag seal of approval after they were nominated among the most attractive parks in the country.
Pickerings Pasture Nature Reserve has been recognised by Green Flag for the fifth successive year, while Hough Green Park in Widnes picked up the award for a third time.
Rock Park in Runcorn was a first-time winner, while Run-corn Hill Nature Reserve also picked up the compliment.
Pickerings Pasture was singled out by judges after they witnessed a massive transformation in the area.
Originally the land was a salt marsh which became a waste tip until Halton Borough Council reclaimed the land in the late 1980s. Now the area has become a haven for wildlife and is fast becoming a popular place to visit with people on both sides of the river.
A total of 253 parks stretching across Britain have been judged as welcoming, safe, well-maintained and valued places for locals and visitors alike and will be flying Green Flags in 2005.
Hough Green park has a bowling green, pavilion, a junior and an infant playground with water feature, tennis court, a multi-games area and large areas of formal grassland.
The park's landscape includes formal wooded areas and horticultural planting and these features caught the eye of the judges.
Paul Todd, Green Flag award manager at the Civic Trust, said: 'Good green spaces increase the quality of people's lives, particularly in built-up areas where not everyone has access to a garden.
'A good park is a place to play, to meet, to learn, to relax - and the perfect place to incorporate exercise into a busy lifestyle.
'Above all, it provides the ideal focal point for its surrounding residents, bringing its local community together like nothing else can.
'Green Flag Award winners should fly the flag with pride.'
Green Flag Award judges assess if a site is welcoming, healthy, safe and secure, well-maintained and clean and its sustainability, conservation and heritage, community involvement, marketing and management.
The award scheme recognises the value of green spaces to communities and quality of life, particularly in urban areas, and recognises parks staff and managing organisations that are dedicated to providing excellent green spaces for the community
MP Phil Hope, parliamentary under-secretary at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said: 'It's fantastic to see that there are more Green Flag Award winners than ever before.
'High-quality parks and green spaces are central to the Government's commitment to cleaner, safer, greener communities and the Green Flag Award is the benchmark of the standard we want to see.'
Cllr Phil Harris, executive board member for environment, said: 'I am delighted that our green spaces have been recognised yet again for their excellent standards.
'I would like to congratulate our landscape services and parks and countryside teams who have worked hard to improve and maintain the parks and nature reserves.'