At the start of 2017 an initial £250,000 was awarded through the Parks for People programme (part of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund) to enable East Herts Council and our partner, Bishop’s Stortford Town Council to develop detailed plans to improve Castle Park. These plans form a bid for a further £2m to enhance Castle Park. The project has been managed on behalf of the Council by Hertfordshire County Council’s Countryside Management Service.
The £2million bid was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of August 2018 and we will be notified of the decision in December 2018. A planning application has also been submitted for the scheme which will require approval before the project can proceed. Over the past year, residents of Bishop’s Stortford and the Friends of Castle Park have been helping to shape these detailed plans. A summary of the plans are below. For more detail, please visit www.eastherts.gov.uk/castlepark
ACCESSIBILITY & MOVEMENT:
The existing paths are poorly connected and incomplete. New paths, a surfaced teenage space, a new bridge and general resurfacing will improve this this. The steps to the castle mound will be opened for all to use. Interpretation through displays, information boards and leaflets will enable everyone to understand and appreciate this feature.
A new path network will improve the disjointed feel of the park and the segregation of Castle Gardens and Sworders Field. This includes a riverside path that improves visibility of the Stort and connects the town centre out towards the north of the town, a path along the eastern edge of Sworders Field and better placed paths around the war memorial.
Access to this important historical feature will be improved through cladding and levelling of the steps. Specialist conservation work will take place that will protect the castle masonry and the well will be opened for safe viewing as a historic feature. The trees on the mound and the hedge will be removed to return the castle to its prominent position in the landscape. Wildflower planting will surround the mound to create an ornate and wildlife rich setting. Lighting will bring the castle alive at night and interpretation will allow people to visualise the past.
Major refurbishment will take place to provide more attractive buildings that are better integrated with the park. Timber cladding will give the building a softer and more natural appearance that is more in keeping with the park setting. A new café will invite more visitors to the park and provide a useful income. Two community rooms will be available for private hire, school groups and events and as a base for the Friends of Castle Park. The building will include public toilets, including a new Changing Places facility. Changing Places facilities are large disabled toilets with an adult changing bed and a hoist. This will be the only Changing Places unit in the centre of Bishop’s Stortford and is crucial for allowing disabled people to visit the town centre for prolonged periods.
The area to the south of the building will be converted into a Community Garden. This will be aligned with the building and new terrace connecting it with the café.
Local groups will be integral to how the space is constructed and developed including input from those with learning disabilities, wheelchair users and young people. The space has been designed with flexibility in mind to meet changing needs as the facility evolves.
WAR MEMORIAL GARDEN:
A simple, reflective space will be created around both of the memorials with open rectangular areas of finely managed grass, surrounded by compact hedgerows. 11 small trees will be planted at even spaces within the hedge of the main memorial to represent the 11 November Remembrance Day. Re-aligned paths will link grass area directly onto the new events space ensuring events such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday will have a much greater public capacity.
The Victorian drinking fountain will be relocated into this space, grouping these significant sculptural features together whilst ensuring the war memorial remains central.
The River Stort will become a feature for people to enjoy, with habitat improvements to benefit the park’s wildlife. A new attractive and accessible bridge will link the children’s spaces and the events spaces together. A pontoon will allow visitors to reach the waters edge, designed at a height that will be ideal for canoes and kayaks. Tree management through a selective process of pollarding, removals and retention will allow more light to the river, giving a new lease of life to the habitat. Brash berms will be installed by volunteers, introducing a varying flow and helping to establish marginal plants. Tree planting elsewhere in the park will ensure that more trees are planted than removed.
OLDER CHILDREN SPACE:
An inclusive and accessible space will be created for teenagers, designed with their input and providing exciting new equipment. It will be a place they can call their own yet will still add to the overall attractiveness of the park. Young people will be able to socialise and engage in a range of sports and activities, including skate, parkour and adventure play. The existing tennis courts will be relocated near to this activity area. This will result in a more open landscape between the mound and the memorials, providing better facilities with a superior playing surface and equipment.
The next stage of the Castle Park project involves even more opportunities for residents to get involved. A range of events based around heritage, wildlife and skate will be developed to involve everyone. Working with a wide range of local groups and organisations, Castle Park will become a hub for community activity.
FRIENDS OF CASTLE PARK:
The Friends of Castle Park will be provided with a range of training opportunities from archaeology to conservation, event delivery and more. For details on the Friends of Castle Park please visit the about page or email firstname.lastname@example.org