With so many layers to the park’s history, it was essential that the project preserved historic features for future generations to enjoy and provided a sustainable opportunity for visitors to learn about the history of the site. South Kesteven District Council (SKDC), embarked on an ambitious and engaging heritage restoration project to symbolise the dawn of a new era of Wyndham Park.
This project was supported with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, who contributed £818,000 towards the works, community events and building a body of volunteers who will steward the park to secure its long term future.
A key driver of the scheme was to complete the works in time for the 100 year anniversary of the year end of WW1. Men of the Machine Gun Corps would regularly march through the park on their way to training at Belton Park.
The scope of the project included:
Complexities and Challenges:
The key challenges of the project were not just restoring the heritage elements such as the historic nature of the buildings, but safely carrying out these works within the heart of a busy public park, as it remained open for the duration of the project. Logistically Wyndham Park was a complicated site, due to the multiple buildings of the project being across a sprawling and busy site; with a café, bowls club, tennis courts, child play areas, including a splash park and cycle paths that are on the National Cycle Network. Furthermore, the local nursery school and college were right on the park’s doorstep.
We drained the boating Lake, cleaned, de-weed and re-sealed with a single ply membrane lining. This was not in the original contract or budget. We explored ways to include this work and worked collaboratively with all partners to find additional funds to make it happen.
We encountered three sets nesting birds in old ticketing building and Visitors Centre which we could not disturb. We re-programmed, engaged with the local ecologist, monitored the situation and stopped works were necessary.
To tackle these logistical issues we hired a local banksman, Ian Simmonds. As a Grantham local and a Wyndham Park Forum volunteer, he knew the park and local area extremely well. Where vehicles needed to cross paths a ‘railway crossing’ approach was used to ensure safety, and was supervised every time by Ian.
He also engaged with visitors to the park to explain the scope of the work, its historic relevance and recorded comments and observations made. Through this interaction some historic details were discovered that supported the work carried out for and on behalf of the Park Committee, which became part of the “living exhibition”.
The new Visitor Centre was designed to not only meet the local needs, but also to complement the existing buildings in the park, enabling it to integrate with the local area. Historic research was undertaken to restore the ticket office to its original state, as shown in the image below:
Positive Social & Economic Impact on the Local Community:
There was an immense positive social impact on the local community. Continuous daily interaction with the local community, informing them on not only the project and construction, but also the heritage and historical importance of the park. We cared about and engaged with the heritage of Wyndham Park.
We engaged over 15,066 people during the project by organising and supporting a range of inter-generational cultural events including:
Through these events we were really able to engage with the public on both heritage and construction, and got to see them really enjoy the benefits the project gave, such as the boating lake – at the grand opening event, we invited the public to create 100 unique boats, linked to the 100th anniversary of WW1 the boats were floated on the newly refurbished boating lake.
We reached multiple generations, from the children at the Wyndham Park Nursery who came to see demolition on site, college students, and families at events also older generations. Plus park volunteers who have a lot of passion for the park and its heritage, and a keen interest in the project.
Positive impact economically:
Wyndham Park Success Stories:
This is a vision led project and from conception, volunteer and community involvement has been at the heart of our decision making process. As public parks are recreational space provided for the wellbeing and good of the community, engagement with the end user was and continues to be prerequisite to the success of the project. Whilst the construction works are now complete, volunteer support continues to play a vital part in the day to day running of the site and we are very encouraged by the number of new volunteers coming forward to help.
During 2011, Wyndham Park attracted circa 375000 visitors per year and last year attracted in excess of 880000 visits. The dramatic increase in visitor numbers directly relate to the level of community interest in the project, thereby proving the value of the site as a social/recreational space. With increasing levels of customer satisfaction, we genuinely believe that completion of the project can only enhance visitor’s appreciation and enjoyment of the park and its many facilities.