An iconic lake at the heart of Wicksteed Park, Kettering, which has been enjoyed by generations of families has been restored to its former glories thanks to a £3million restoration project.

The lake was one of the park’s major attractions when it was formerly opened in 1921 by founder Charles Wicksteed as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.

But a build-up of algae and blanket weed had meant the lake had become largely unusable, with people struggling to use rowing boats let alone enjoy the large steam boat rides which graced the water in the past.

The lake will be formerly re-opened in the New Year and the completion of the project will be marked by the unveiling of a lakeside statue depicting children’s play.

New lakeside play features built out of trees and stone will form part of the park’s new attractions for 2015, which also include a new indoor play area, a sand and water play area, play bunds, a new walk-through aviary and a new drop slide.

The lake project, which began last winter, was largely funded by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, which owns and operates the park, with the help of just over £1million (£1,046,900) from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and donations from Northamptonshire County Council and Kettering Borough Council.

The project has included:

  • Draining, dredging and deepening the main lake to reduce algae and blanket weed. Reed beds are also being planted alongside areas of grass wetland to improve biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
  • Installing new sluices and water level control system for the lake, including a fish pass.
  • The restoration and conservation of the redundant roundhouse, a 1924 lakeside shelter, which has been repaired, bringing it back into use as a focus for lakeside activities.
  • New all-weather lakeside paths allowing full access around lake circumference for everyone for the first time in the park’s history.
  • A fountain on the lake
  • A children’s lakeside paddling area
  • A shingle beach
  • A 90m floating pontoon bridge to improve access to the far side of the lake
  • A new grass amphitheatre and the restoration of the park’s arboretum, with a new footbridge and entrance at either end to encourage more visitors to access this part of the park.
  • A Community Link Manager has been appointed and is running a series of community events, holiday clubs and opportunities for volunteering alongside an archive project to preserve the history of the park.
  • New rowing boats have now begun operating on the lake and there are plans to create a children’s play island in the middle of the lake and restore the tradition of boat rides up and down the length of the lake.

Wicksteed Park Managing Director Alasdair McNee said: “The completion of the lake restoration has been a massive project.

“We had to work through delays caused by the horrendously wet weather last winter but we were blessed to have the patience and support of park users, who are now beginning to enjoy the untold benefits of the work.

“The scale of the project is indicated by the fact we had to dredge 50,000 cubic metres of silt from the lake and during the project we also discovered that two of the bridges which serve the Wicksteed Park railway had to be replaced.

“But the lake is not returned to former glories and work has been done to preserve it for future generations.

“The one thing that many people are commenting on is the opening up of the historic views across the length of the lake – and you can now also see right down the length of the park from the park’s Pavilion.”