Restoration of historic Durham park nears completion

Andrew Embleton and Matt Ayley planting flowers at Wharton Park.

Andrew Embleton and Matt Ayley planting flowers at Wharton Park.

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A historic park is looking blooming great as a £3million restoration project draws to a close.

Contractors have turned Durham City’s Wharton Park, dubbed the People’s Park, into a hive of activity as the landmark enters the final stages of its year-long makeover.

Gary Burns lays new stones around the amphitheatre at Wharton Park.

Gary Burns lays new stones around the amphitheatre at Wharton Park.

With just 10 weeks to go until a spectacular weekend of celebrations marks the reopening of Wharton Park, work to improve its much loved miniature car track and amphitheatre, and create a new heritage centre, cafe, and play areas, is nearing completion.

Coun Maria Plews, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for leisure, libraries and lifelong learning, said: “Wharton Park is one of Durham’s hidden gems and it is great to see how well the restoration is progressing.

“Soon the park will be returned to its former glory and once again be an important green space for the city, offering a host of recreational opportunities for both local people and visitors alike.”

Wharton Park hugs the hillside to the north of the city centre and there has been a formal park on the site since 1858, when William Lloyd Wharton gave use of Windy Hill to the people of Durham.

Occupying a plot near the railway station, the park has commanding views of the Castle and Cathedral – a view 19th century philosopher John Ruskin reportedly described as “the eighth wonder of the world” – and in August 1871 it played host to Durham Miners’ Association first Gala.

Its restoration is being carried out thanks to £2.45 million from the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery funds, with additional support from the Council and Durham Area Action Partnership bringing the total investment to £3 million.

Wharton Park will reopen at the end of May, with a weekend of family friendly events, including music, arts and crafts, and sporting activities on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29.

The celebration - from 11.00am to 3.00pm each day - will be a chance for families to discover the improvements made to the 4.3 hectares, 158-year-old park and see its potential as a space for future community events.

For more information about Wharton Park, including its history and the community projects celebrating its links with the mining heritage of Durham, visit the website here.