Town jewel in crown prepares for summer

IPSWICH'S jewel in the crown is today being prepared for a summer full of activity - despite parts remaining a building site.

IPSWICH'S jewel in the crown is today being prepared for a summer full of activity - despite parts remaining a building site.

The £4.5 million restoration project at Christchurch Park is now well under way and major changes can be seen by visitors.

The new park visitors' centre, offices, and toilets near the Bolton Lane entrance are rapidly taking shape.

The building will eventually be clad in timber which is due to be installed later in the summer.

Timber cladding is already taking shape around the new kiosk and toilet block in the Lower Arboretum although work has been slightly delayed because of a change in the design of the wind turbine which will be fitted there.

And the round pond which was drained of water earlier this year remains largely empty - although it could be filled temporarily during the summer holiday.

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Park manager Sam Pollard said he was pleased with the way the restoration was going, although there had been setbacks.

He said: “Being here all the time, I can really notice how things have been changing although some improvements like the changes at the front of the mansion might not be that noticeable to the casual visitor.

“The delay to the round pond has been a bit frustrating, but when it became clear we could not repair the coping stones we had to apply for extra money. We still have to wait for that to come through.

“However we may fill the pond during the summer holiday when there will be a lot more people in the park and then drain it again when we can get on with finishing the work.”

The paths around the park are also being restored, with the only cobbles left being those in front of the mansion.

Both the lower and upper arboretums have had vegetation cleared and are now more open than they have been for generations.

Mr Pollard said this was important to make visitors feel safe in the park.

“In the past it was possible to get lost in some of the corners of the arboretums and that meant people were reluctant to go in there.

“Now they are much more open and inviting it is a much more attractive part of the general park landscape.”

The Wilderness Pond was cleaned earlier this year and is now much clearer.

The new visitor centre and kiosk buildings are due to open during the early autumn and the full restoration programme at the park is due to be completed by the end of next year.

Park facts:

Christchurch Park has been parkland throughout history.

In the middle ages the site of the mansion was a priory - and the ponds were originally used by the monks to stock fish.

The priory was dissolved by Henry VIII and the mansion was built during Tudor times.

The Park was handed to the corporation of Ipswich by Felix Thornley Cobbold in 1895.

Until the 1930s parkland extended to Westerfield, but the land away from the town was developed as the northern by-pass and for homes between the wars.

The park is now about 83 acres.

Restoration facts:

The park restoration is expected to cost £4.5 million.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given a grant of £3.2 million towards the work.

The work includes replacing or rebuilding all the paths in the park.

Work started on the restoration programme last year with repairs to fountains.

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