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£2.7m plan to put life back into park

Hirst Park in Ashington. Picture by Jane Coltman.
Hirst Park in Ashington. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The £2.7million refurbishment of a park which is famed for its footballing heritage has reached the next stage.

A planning application has been submitted as part of the overhaul of Hirst Park in Ashington, where Sir Bobby and Jack Charlton began their illustrious careers to become World Cup winners.

Built in 1915, it is where the brothers first played and trained as youngsters – as did their cousin, Newcastle United legend Jackie Milburn – before the park fell into decline in the following decades.

But last summer, the Hirst Revival project, led by Northumberland County Council, landed a £2.29million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

This is being supported by contributions from Ashington Town Council, the Ashington Leisure Partnership and the county council, taking the total project value to £2.7million.

It will mean that the Flower Park is rejuvenated and landscaped, while greenhouses and buildings will be restored to provide much-improved public spaces and new training facilities, to be operated in partnership with Northumberland College.

In January this year, work started on removing dead, dying and dangerous trees, with replacement planting to take place next winter, and now plans have been lodged to restore the redundant depot buildings.

They will be converted into a multi-purpose education/training room and community garden development, with kitchen, toilets, workshop, office and boot room. Outside there will be a polytunnel, greenhouses, shade tunnel and raised planters.

This will enable horticultural training, including courses to help families grow their own vegetables, to take place.

Other work includes the creation of a new multi-use games area.

Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services, said: “This flagship project in the heart of Ashington 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 HLF funding will also establish an annual Charlton and Milburn Cup tournament so that youngsters can follow in their footsteps, while play facilities will be enhanced and water features reintroduced.

The lost garden of Hirst will be recreated, links between the recreation ground and Flower Park opened up and the former site of the Woodhorn monument will be developed into a performance and interpretation space, telling the mining heritage story of the area.