Park revamp reaps rewards

The Ashton Memorial
The Ashton Memorial

Work has started on the next phase of a major improvement plan for Williamson Park’s historic woodland.

The aim of the project, which started this month after Lancaster City Council received a £45,000 grant from the Forestry Commission, is to restructure the woodland around the Old Observatory to increase light levels, promote natural regeneration within the park and improve accessibility.

The work, which is due to be completed in March, complements the continued improvements of The Ashton Memorial and Williamson Park, with a half a million pound project to repair and breathe new life into the monument due to be completed by the end of 2015.

The woodland project will see the resurfacing of over 1,000 square metres of tarmac footpaths to improve accessibility to the woodlands, installation of 50 bird boxes for native woodland bird species, installation of picnic benches for families and visitors and iterpretation at the foundations of the Old Observatory.

Due to the nature of the work, certain footpaths will be closed until the work has been completed.

Lancaster City Council said it continued to invest heavily in the buildings including the Ashton Memorial.

Following the completed £183,000 investment on the steps, 2015 will see further investment which will include repair and replacement of original doors on all balcony levels, internal and external decoration and repairs to the two internal domes and external masonry works to make the building water tight.

All of this will be an investment of approximately £530,000 on The Ashton Memorial in 2015.

There will also be an additional £140,000 invested on the phase two boundary walls project and lake bridge repairs.

The park receives around 250,000 visitors a year, and investments into the Pavillion Cafe - including new furniture, equipment and a commitment to quality local food and drink has seen the cafe doubling its outturn in recent years.

Coun David Smith, Cabinet member with responsibility for parks and open spaces, said: “Footfall figures for paid attractions have increased year on year since 2009-10 with over 40,000 visitors to the Butterfly House this year.

“In addition to this, over 80 schools from all over the north west visited our attractions for educational purposes.

“2014 saw more weddings being held at the Ashton Memorial than ever before, cementing its status as one of the best venues in Lancashire.

“The park is accredited by Visit England, Taste Lancashire, Green Flag. It also holds a Green Flag Heritage award, the only park in Lancashire with this accolade.

“Further improvements made to the grounds will continue to be led by the ten year landscape and woodland management plan. We will also look to continue to work in partnership with groups such as the Friends of Williamson Park, University of Cumbria and The Dukes Theatre to make further improvements to the facilities and visitor experience.”