23 Aug 2021
A pandemic delayed party was held in Hirst Park, Ashington on 22 August 2021, to officially reopen the park, which was completed in February 2020. Various stalls and a fun fare and musical entertainment, including Ashington Collier Band and a string duo added to extensive attractions and facilities in the park.
The park was established in 1915 to provide a green oasis and place of recreation for the local community in the former mining town. Southern Green is proud to have led the £2.7m restoration project which was funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, Northumberland Council and Ashington Town Council. The project has linked the two halves of the park - the Flower Park, which includes extensive floral displays and the open space and football pitches where Jackie Milburn, and the Charlton brothers played as boys.
Works included the reinstatement of the Lost Garden, extensive planting restoration and the upgrading of the activity zone including a new water play area which has proved extremely successful over the last two summers. The new performance space also interprets the Woodhorn Mining Disaster of 1916 through a complex floor piece with carved stones and seats. The area proved to be a great setting for the musicians at the opening drawing good crowds.
The new Growing Zone is a commitment to providing horticultural training and education opportunities to the local community. It provides a base for Ashington Town Council, Northumberland County Council park staff, Northumberland College Horticultural Department and the Full Circle Food Project. The Full Circle Food is a local Charity that educates people about growing food to eat, healthy cooking on a budget; and supporting people to lead healthier lifestyles. The Growing Zone houses a community food garden, where people come to learn to grow their own food from seed, take part in a men’s shed and other outdoor activities that reduce social isolation, stimulate conversation, make friends and most importantly supports mental health and wellbeing. The project provides food for the local Food Bank. In addition, gardening classes are run for children so they can learn about the origin of food, flowers and wildlife, enjoying outdoor activities while learning. The project has been so successful in the last 2 years that a room in the Growing Zone building has been converted to form a kitchen and in addition, a sensory garden is under construction.
Simon Green, Southern Green Director, said ‘it was great to revisit the park and see the established planting in the Flower Park and to hear how much the park has been appreciated by the local community especially during lock down. The combination of the much improved facilities, more frequent park visitors, the County Council’s high quality maintenance, and wide stakeholder base, has once more put Hirst Park at the centre of the local community. The park is a great model for other park restoration projects.’
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