‘We hope to return the park to its best’

HEART OF TOWN: Keith Haisman says his team will ensure the park thrives.
HEART OF TOWN: Keith Haisman says his team will ensure the park thrives.

Clare Castle Country Park has won a £10,000 Lottery grant – and experts are looking at making a further funding bid for £1million.

Clare Town Council hopes to take over ownership of the park and its buildings next year from Suffolk County Council, and it said the £10,000 will help it plan and prepare for the park’s future.

And on Tuesday, a band of experts including English Heritage were in the park to assess what future funding could be available to rejuvenate the popular community facility.

Keith Haisman, town council chairman, said the council was at an early stage in researching what other grants were available, with advisors suggesting that a figure of £1million would not be out of the question.

He said he expected more meetings to take place before the council was ready to put in a bid in the spring.

Commenting on the news that £10,000 had been secured, he said: “We’re very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for this funding.

“Clare Castle Country Park is the heart of the town and valued by everyone. Once we take ownership, we are committed to ensuring that the park will thrive.

“We’re excited to be at the start of a journey that will hopefully return the park to its best.”

Mr Haisman said the award given by the Heritage Lottery Fund would support the council’s ambitions for the park to become a significant attraction in the future.

He added: “Specifically, this grant will enable the council to draw on the extensive experience of a number of specialists from the historic environment to engage visitors, equipping trustees to be able to better manage and protect this locally-loved park.”

He said once the transfer of the park from local authority control was completed, the town council would own the land and buildings as custodian trustee, with the running of the park being delegated to an independent charitable trust.

The transfer came as a result of county council budget cuts two years ago, with the park’s warden having to be made redundant.

A new bid for further funding next year would be made with the help of English Heritage, which Mr Haisman said, if successful, would make a huge difference to the fortunes of the park which attracts around 180,000 visitors every year and features the ruins of Clare Castle.

Recently, a number of archaeological digs took place in the park and Mr Haisman said these finds could be put on display as part of an education centre for children with guided tours.

The idea was to look at investment in the park over the next 25 to 50 years.

He said the council would be drawing on advice from other successful country parks in a bid to learn from their experience. “We have a band of experts across their field helping us,” he added.