A major £2million project to breathe new life into Wicksteed Park’s historic lake and restore it to former glories is to begin on Monday September 16.
The Kettering park, one of East Midland’s most popular attractions, has been awarded just over £1million (£1,046,900) from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support the scheme.
The project will be launched by Wicksteed Park managing director Alasdair McNee and Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, at 11am.
They will be joined by local VIPs and Community Link Manager Charlotte Widgery, who has been appointed, as part of the project, to oversee a string of initiatives to animate the improved lakeside area.
Contractors will then begin the job of transforming the 90,000sq metre lake and the surrounding area in the run up to the park opening all its attractions for the 2014 season next spring.
The restoration, which is also supported by a £78,000 grant by Kettering Borough Council and XXX from Northamptonshire County Council, will include:
- Draining, dredging and deepening the main lake to reduce algae and blanket weed and new sluices will be installed. Reed beds will also be planted alongside areas of grass wetland to improve biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
- A new beach area where families can land a kayak and go off to explore other parts of the park and where people can paddle, unsupervised, in the lake.
- Recreating the tradition of landing on the largest island, with the creation of specific landing places.
- The conservation of the currently redundant roundhouse, a 1924 lakeside shelter, which will be repaired, bringing it back into use as a focus for lakeside activities.
- Creation of a large amphitheatre, new pathways around the lake and arboretum, and the creation of water play areas for children.
- A new Greenway route round the southern part of the lake to link up with the existing footpath network and incorporating a pontoon walkway across part of the Lake.
- A range of other improvements set out in an Ecology Plan, including the restoration of wet grassland and marsh; creation of new habitats for amphibians, bats, birds and reptiles.
Alasdair McNee said “These are exciting times for the park and I believe that these improvements and additions would be just the sort of things Charles Wicksteed would have carried out if he was still alive today.
“This project will go much further than just restoring former glory and I am genuinely excited about all of the new activities and habitats that will be created around the lake, ensuring that it can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.
“Our overall aims are to restore the historic character of the lake and its surroundings, to improve public access to the site, while protecting vulnerable areas and to encourage people to learn about the landscape and ecological heritage of the site.
“The footpath network around the lake will provide a variety of experiences as it guides the visitor around the park and allows them to explore the different parts of the park, ranging from active sports and rides areas to the more passive and rural areas.
“The arboretum, parts of the riverside and the sweep of land around the southern tip of the main lake will be designated as a natural play zone.
“It will become a major new feature of the park and will bring to life areas which are currently little used, under explored and which don’t feel part of the visitor experience.”
Oliver Wicksteed said: “The Trustees’ vision for Wicksteed Park as a place where adventurous, educational and imaginative play happen in outstanding parkland offers very rich opportunities for learning and participation.
“School children will benefit from the improved access to natural areas.
“We already have a substantial programme of educational work at the park and we will build on this as well as continuing and expanding our schedule of major events for local schools to make children more aware of environmental and social issues using the resources of the park.”
The lake was created between 1919-21, prior to the park being formally opened in 1921 and was used for regattas, swimming, boating and water polo, with the park advertised as “The Gateway to Health and Happiness”.
The water for the lake is supplied by The River Ise, which enters through original Charles Wicksteed-designed sluices. Over the years, however, large amounts of sediment have collected across the lake, reducing its depth to less than half a metre across much of its area.
Wicksteed Park, near Kettering, was founded by Charles Wicksteed, the inventor of modern day play equipment such as the slide and the swing, so it has become known as the home of children’s play.
It also combines the tranquility of an historic Grade II listed country park with 147 acres of parkland, a nature reserve run by the Wildlife Trust and attractions such as rollercoasters and rides.
Notes to editors:
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk.
Issued on behalf of Wicksteed Park
For further information, please contact:
Andrew Turner – Andrew Turner Public Relations