London trains, reed beds, a paddling pool and play areas at Bourne Park, Ipswich
Ipswich is blessed with many fantastic parks, writes Lynne Mortimer. And today, we start a series of features looking at each one.
As a regular visitor with my small grandsons I can attest to the attractions of Bourne Park, nestled on the south-eastern edge of the town.
It is not large but has absolutely everything small children need; a great play area a paddling pool (in season) and the sight of frequent passenger and freight trains passing by. On the day we visit, the pool is inhabited by around 80 children, while their parents and minders occupy the surrounding area, sitting on blankets spread out for picnics. It is a lively scene with many other small children on the play equipment.
For cyclists taking advantage of the cycle path through the park, there is the added advantage that this is a flat site. The gardens are neatly laid out and there is a memorial to those from Ransome and Rapier who died in the two world wars, reminding us of the town’s world-renowned industrial heritage.
Ian Clarke, parks supervisor for the western area of Ipswich, tells me the park was given to the town by WF Paul, the owner of the maltings at Ipswich Docks and was opened by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in 1927.
One apocryphal story, says Ian, is that there are bullet holes in the park’s fencing from Second World War dogfight. He has been told this story on a number of occasions but no actual bullet holes have yet been found, he adds.
The memorial to the men of Ransome and Rapier was moved to the park in 1988. It had stood in the Waterside Works canteen but was relocated when the factory closed. The plaque that accompanies the names is sadly missing, stolen, I understand, around 15 years ago.
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The path that stretches the length of the park from it’s entrance via Wherstead Road to Stoke Park Drive is Corporation Avenue, lined with oak trees. A parcel of land amounting to 76 acres, Bourne Park is now part of Belstead Brook Park. It wasn’t when I was a girl – Belstead Brook was my source for frogspawn, which I would carry home in a jam jar. I don’t think a tadpole ever hatched.
Greenways Project Manager James Baker gives an enthusiastic overview of the way in which all Ipswich parks have risen to the modern challenge of being places people can enjoy and where events can be hosted as well as encouraging wildlife. Part of this project is returning closely-mown grass to long grass which, with myriad varieties of meadow-type flora provides a habitat to so many creatures.
The Greenways project is a partnership between Ipswich borough, Suffolk Coastal, Babergh and Suffolk County councils and it looks after about 50 spaces in these areas.
Bourne Park has, James says, the biggest reed beds in south Suffolk and 80 breeds of birds have been spotted there. A barn owl project hopes to tempt these magnificent birds of prey to nest here but, although they have been spotted passing by, they have yet to take up the offer.
Rewind to the late Victorian times and the water here was used for boating, alongside Belstead Brook. It would have been a classic scene of weekend leisure for the monied middle classes towards the turn of the 20th century.
The parkland was originally part of the grounds attached to Stoke Park, a princely mansion that no longer stands. It had a wood at the front where stocks of pheasants and partridge roamed – a living larder for the people who lived there. To the front of the wood was a deer park which is now Bourne park, and the Corporation Avenue was part of the impressive driveway to the house.
James says about 3,500 trees and shrubs were been added to Bourne Park in the “Big Tree Plant”.
Although Bourne is a smaller park (if separated from Belstead) it is certainly not undiscovered. It is very much a family park as well as an important wildlife site... and somewhere to admire the Intercity trains as they speed into and out of Ipswich Rail Station.