Country park in bid to secure backing to safeguard its future

Detailed discussions into attempts to secure funding which will safeguard the future of Clare Country Park are making good progress.

A group of trustees, who took over the ownership and management of the park from Suffolk County Council earlier this year, met yesterday to run through plans to try to obtain a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

With the help of English Heritage, the group is hopeful of securing a grant which will go a long way to maintaining the upkeep of the park, which includes the 13th century ruins of Clare Castle.

Keith Haisman, chairman of Clare Town Council and a member of the park’s trustees, said an application for funding was moving in the right direction.

“We want to pull together a conservation plan which covers all aspects of the park, the castle area, the river, the pond, the whole area,” he said.

“There is lots of work to be done with advisors and lots of stages to go through and we need to go through them to get a clear idea of what we are taking on.”

The ownership of the park was transferred as a result of budget cuts at the county council and the park’s warden had to be made redundant.

Mr Haisman said the group had big plans for the country park, which attracts around 180,000 visitors every year and also features the remains of a closed Victorian railway station.

It is hoped the railway ticket office, waiting room and office will eventually be transformed into a history and education centre and the current visitor centre hired out to local groups.

“We are working to find the right balance between preservation, conservation and community use,” said Mr Haisman.

“There is lots of expertise in Clare but we do need help from the right advisors and are still obtaining detailed surveys. It is a substantial park and there are huge maintenance costs involved.”