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We are pleased to announce that Wharton Park in Durham is to be recognised at this year's Landscape Institute Awards. Shortlisted in the Heritage and Conservation category, this city centre park has recently been restored thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Big Lottery and Durham County Council. Located on a high wooded promontory at the edge of the city, this unique park is terraced into the hillside with outstanding views towards the castle and cathedral and has been an important part of the city's heritage ever since it was gifted to the people of Durham by William Wharton in 1858.
Southern Green has been involved in this project since the very beginning, assisting Durham City Council with initial survey work and funding applications back in 2005, before a merger with the County Council saw the project temporarily suspended. The declining condition of the park made its restoration increasingly urgent, and we were delighted when Durham County Council asked us to help rekindle the project. At its lowest point in 2010, the park was in a seriously delapidated condition, and was facing the very real prospect of closure due to concerns about public safety. Grant funding of £2.45M was awarded by the HLF and Big Lottery and this, along with match funding from Durham County Council, paved the way for a £3M restoration of the park. As well as taking the project through all stages of the HLF process, Southern Green acted as lead consultant, lead landscape architect and contract administrators to oversee delivery of the project, which was completed in May 2016.
Works included the construction of a new Heritage Centre, providing a cafe, education space and WCs, two new play areas and the creation of a new community garden. The Listed Battery and Battlement Walk were fully restored, along with comprehensive repairs to the amphitheatre, stone retaining walls and steps. Footpaths throughout the park were resurfaced, with new street furniture and waymarking throughout and the park entrances were all given new prominence with the introduction of stone piers, gates and signage. The statue of Albert the Good was restored and a new timber sculpture of William Wharton, carved from a felled tree, now looks out over the city.
Wharton Park is the fourth project by Southern Green to be honoured by the Landscape Institute. The restoration of Ouseburn Park in Newcastle was Highly Commended in 2012, as was the Student Forum at Newcastle University in 2013. The restoration of Stewart Park in Middlesbrough was outright winner in the Heritage and Conservation category in 2013.