Park makeover nears completion

WHAT a difference two years - and £4.25 million - has made to Christchurch Park!With the official reopening scheduled for May 6, just the finishing touches are to be completed to the new buildings and paths.

WHAT a difference two years - and £4.25 million - has made to Christchurch Park!

With the official reopening scheduled for May 6, just the finishing touches are to be completed to the new buildings and paths.

The ponds have been cleaned and repaired, the lower arboretum has been opened up so it is no longer separated from the rest of the park by a wall of shrubs.

The new buildings - the Reg Driver Centre which forms the offices for rangers as well as a visitor and education centre and the new toilets/kiosk in the lower arboretum - both bring exciting new features to the park.

The Reg Driver centre replaces arguably the most ugly - and certainly the most out-of-place - public toilets in the town.

While in the lower arboretum the smaller building has a distinctly nautical appearance with a wind turbine looking like an upturned propeller.

Most Read

Park manager Sam Pollard is full of enthusiasm: “Here I am looking at the clean ponds and I can see the bottom of them for the first time ever.

“Now we have to work to keep them this clear, we are busy pulling rubbish and leaves out as much as we can.”

Staff would be discouraging people from throwing bread to ducks and geese - although Mr Pollard was anxious not to be seen as a killjoy.

He said: “We aren't going to ban people from feeding the ducks, but we will be trying to get them to stop feeding bread which is very bad for the water.

“We are considering installing grain dispensers which would give out a far more natural food for the ducks.”

The toilets in the kiosk and in the Reg Driver Centre are due to be opened at the same time as mayor Inga Lockington officially re-opens the park on May 6.

However the borough is still looking for someone to take on the kiosk in the lower arboretum.

“We are hopeful that someone will be found very soon, although in the past that has not been a particularly popular part of the park. That should change now it has been opened up,” Mr Pollard said.

A series of special events during bank holiday week at the end of May should encourage families to use the park, and Mr Pollard was also hopeful it would be used by other groups during the summer.

He said: “We want to get a lot of people up here using the park for all kinds of events - and now the work on the park is complete, I'm sure that will be happening.”

Park facts:

Christchurch Park was originally the site of a priory - the ponds were originally dug to provide fish for the monks throughout the year.

Christchurch Mansion was built after the priory was dissolved by Henry VIII. Although it was privately owned, the grounds were always open to the people of the town.

The mansion was given to the town by Felix Thornley Cobbold in 1895 on condition that the park was bought by the Corporation.

At this time the park was much larger, but the section further out of town was eventually sold to allow the old Ipswich by-pass to be built in the 1920s - as well as homes from Park Road northwards.