Plans to improve Ashington park submitted for funding bid

Coun Avril Chisholm, Mayor of Ashington; Coun Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services at Northumberland County Council; Coun Ken Parry, county councillor for the Hirst Ward. Back row: Andrew Gardner, TGP Landscape Architects; Mike Jeffrey, countryside and green spaces manager; Tony Davison, Hist Park Keeper; and Mike Slaughter, Ashington Town Clerk.
Coun Avril Chisholm, Mayor of Ashington; Coun Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services at Northumberland County Council; Coun Ken Parry, county councillor for the Hirst Ward. Back row: Andrew Gardner, TGP Landscape Architects; Mike Jeffrey, countryside and green spaces manager; Tony Davison, Hist Park Keeper; and Mike Slaughter, Ashington Town Clerk.

A near £3m plan to revive an Ashington park that was once home to international football stars have reached the final stage.

A second round application for a ‘Parks for People’ grant for Hirst Park from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund was submitted last week.

In early 2016, development funding of £139,300 was awarded by the HLF and Big Lottery Fund, with £12,400 contributions from Northumberland County Council and Ashington Town Council.

If the second round application is successful it will see £2.27m awarded to the project by the lottery, with cash contributions from the county council, the town council and Ashington Leisure Partnership bringing the total value to £2.7m over the next five years.

The project will mean the Flower Park is rejuvenated and landscaped, and greenhouses and buildings are restored.

The 100-year old park where international football legends the Charlton brothers and Jackie Milburn played as youngsters, with the cash establishing an annual Charlton and Milburn Cup tournament.

The HLF funding will allow play facilities to be enhanced with water play features reintroduced.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services, said: “It is great to see this significant project for the area reach its next milestone. This project will protect the park and its heritage for the community for the next century and enable generations to play, learn and relax in this wonderful space.”

The coal mining heritage of the park and local area will play a big part in the long term project with events, activities and interpretation resources being developed to explore and tell its story.

Ashington town councillor Avril Chisholm, town mayor, added: “I am very keen to see pride return to our town, and projects like this will mean that we really have something special to offer.

“I am enthusiastic about the future of Ashington and look forward to seeing this project become part of positive change. The submission is certainly comprehensive, and I look forward to the next steps.”

Some of the things the Hirst Revival project plans to deliver:

• The lost garden of Hirst will be recreated and links between the recreation ground and Flower Park will be opened up.

• Horticultural training including courses to help families grow their own vegetables.

• Research activities and events to engage local people to help us discover more about the heritage of the park, people and the area.

• A play zone, including a water play feature and wildlife areas.

• The former site of the Woodhorn monument will be developed into a community performance and interpretation space, telling the mining heritage story of the area.

If successful, the major improvements and activities will begin in 2018.