Lottery funds will help transform Clare country park

Board of trustees for Clare Castle Country Park; Gary Brown, Charmain Hawkins, Derek Blake, Richard Smith, Sharon Benson, Geoffrey Bray, Keith Mison and Kate Terry

Board of trustees for Clare Castle Country Park; Gary Brown, Charmain Hawkins, Derek Blake, Richard Smith, Sharon Benson, Geoffrey Bray, Keith Mison and Kate Terry

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Clare Castle Country Park is to be transformed with the help of a £206,000 National Lottery grant.

The park’s trustees announced yesterday that the development phase of their Heritage Lottery Fund application had been approved.

The money will be used to transform key parts of the park’s green spaces, castle and Victorian buildings and to develop a wider range of leisure and learning activities.

Geoffrey Bray, chairman of the Clare Castle Country Park Trust, said: “We intend to improve the park for everyone in our local community of Clare and beyond.

“Our ultimate aim is to encourage visitors to make full use of this beautiful, historic and environmentally significant park. This funding is a vital first step in helping us to achieve this objective.”

The park was acquired in 2015 by the town of Clare. In the years leading up to the transfer a considerable amount of basic maintenance work had been neglected.

With the enthusiastic help of a sizeable number of volunteers, many noticeable improvements have been made with new activities being developed and an increased use of the park by local schools.

The trustees say the development phase could take up to two years to complete at which time a further bid will be submitted for the delivery phase.

The second phase, which would see the detailed plans implemented, would cost around £1.5 million, making raising additional funds vital if the Trust is to achieve its major objectives.

Mr Bray said: “The trustees have a number of priorities for improving the park which are already underway.

“Examples are the partial restoration of the moat, which will be carried out with the strong support of Historic England and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and building a café in the old Booking Hall of the station building.

“A longer term priority, the renovation of the Victorian goods shed to enable it to become an attractive and popular centre for leisure and educational purposes, will be dependent on further grant money being obtained.”

The park currently relies on a large number of volunteers to help maintain its grounds and buildings and this will continue to the case as the new project is expected to depend on ‘substantial community input’.