Clare Castle Country Park is hopeful of making its ambitious heritage and refurbishment plans a reality, as it awaits the outcome of an application for £1.5 million in grant funding.
Trustees are optimistically waiting to hear if their bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is successful, after they presented details of their plans to town residents in late February, which were developed following an earlier period of public consultation.
If approved, the funding will go towards numerous projects, which will include the restoration of Clare Park Centre and the conversion of the former railway goods shed building into a multi-purpose space for education, exhibitions and celebrations for the local community.
It will also pay for a slew of improvements to the visitor experience, such as an information hub set in the ground at the top of the moat, the restoration of the decaying steps on the so-called Lady’s Walk, and the desilting of the moat, to help restore its original shape and improve the ecology of the area.
As well as that, part of the money will go towards the revitalisation of the existing town trail within Clare, the addition of six new spaces in the main car park, and modifications to the railway station, including repairs to the walls and surfaces of the southern platform and the inclusion of a model railway.
Geoffrey Bray, chairman of the Clare Castle Country Park trustees, said: “The application process has been a large undertaking.
“The trustees wanted to ensure any development was carried out with the full consultation and support of the community.
“As a result, an on-site survey of 1,500 park users was carried out last summer, to take on board comments and identify ways in which the park could improve.
“In addition to the survey, local teachers were consulted, as well as 15 local community groups.”
The HLF project, if it goes ahead, will also see heritage activity take place at the park, beginning with a three-year archaeology programme to help further understand the history of the park and its occupants during the Middle Ages.
Since 2015, Clare Castle Country Park has been owned by Clare Town Council, having previously been under the control of Suffolk County Council, and it is managed by an independent trust.
However, the park is wholly self-financed and currently does not receive any council funding.