Northumberland County Council has pledged to restore a historic Ashington park to its former glory after announcing a multi-million pound cash boost from the National Lottery.
The local authority has been successful in securing a £2.29million Parks for People grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The funding will ensure that the flower park is rejuvenated and landscaped, a new play area developed and greenhouses and buildings restored to provide much improved public spaces.
New training facilities for the community – to be operated in partnership with Northumberland College – will also be created.
The HLF money will be supported by contributions from the county council, Ashington Town Council and Ashington Leisure Partnership, bringing the total Hirst Park project value to £2.7million over the next five years.
The 100-year old park is renowned as being the place where international football legends Sir Bobby and Jack Charlton and Newcastle United great Jackie Milburn played as youngsters.
The funding will establish an annual Charlton and Milburn Cup tournament so that local youth groups can follow in their footsteps.
It will allow play facilities to be enhanced, with water play features reintroduced, and the colourful floral displays that the park is so fondly remembered for will also be revived.
Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news for the park, local residents and the Ashington area.
“Thanks must go to all those who have put so much work into this scheme over the past few years to secure this extremely substantial funding commitment.
“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.”
Council leader Peter Jackson added: “The Hirst Park scheme is all a part of the continued revitalisation and rebirth of Ashington, which has our full support.
“Ashington has a bright future and we will continue to support a town that everyone can be proud of.”
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 Council’s business chairman, Coun Mark Purvis, said: “On behalf of the town council, I am delighted with the successful outcome of the bid.
“Successful bids of this magnitude require a great deal of work over a period of time, with a lot of this work often going unseen.
The town council, as a major partner in the bid, now looks forward to seeing the exciting plans being turned into reality and the park being returned to its former glory.”
The major improvements and activities are set to begin in 2018. The project’s specific aspects include the following.
• 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 the county council 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.