Clare Castle Country Park is celebrating the acquisition of £1.5 million in grant funding, stating it has big plans for boosting the town’s tourism and shedding new light on its ancient history.
The park announced that its application for funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was approved last week, following a nine-month period of development work and community consultation last year.
The money is to be used for a string of refurbishment work around the site, including revamping Clare Park Centre into a multi-purpose educational and exhibition space, de-silting the moat around the castle and repairs to walls and the surface of the railway station’s south platform.
The park trustees say the purpose of the project is to cultivate more community interest and engagement, with family-based activities and events, and new facilities designed to encourage participation from primary and secondary schools.
Geoffrey Bray, chairman of Clare Castle Country Park trustees, paid tribute to the group’s volunteers in making the funding bid a success, and for their work over the last three years.
The trust took over management of the park in 2015, after ownership was passed from Suffolk County Council to Clare Town Council.
“We are delighted,” he told the Free Press. “It will be quite a substantial project. I think it will make it a more attractive site for people to visit.
“One of the things that came out of the consultation was that people said ‘it’s quite a nice place, but there’s not enough to come back to’.
“We would like to encourage people to come regularly and stay a bit longer, and find there is a huge amount of history and ecological interest in the park and the surrounding area.
“We want to make sure people understand and appreciate what the park has to offer.”
Part of the HLF grant will go towards financing a programme of community-based archaeological digs over the coming years.
Mr Bray explained the origins of the castle dates back to before the Saxon era, but much of this history remains unknown, and he hoped the plots of land earmarked for excavation would uncover more about the site’s pre-Norman heritage.
He added that he believed the various activities at the park would have a significant role in helping the Visit Clare initiative, which launched last summer under the objective of improving tourist interest in the town and enhancing the local economy.
Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: “From community archaeology and restoring industrial heritage gems to transforming access to play, learning, wildlife and history for people of all ages, National Lottery funding is to make a major difference in Clare Castle Country Park.
“We are delighted to support this project and look forward to an exciting and community-focused future for the park.”
For more information about the park, go to www.clarecastlecountrypark.co.uk.