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Photo: Michael Moor.

Photo: Michael Moor.

Two-year project aims to bring Country Park heritage to light

The heritage hidden in Hastings Country Park is to be brought to light in a joint project between Hastings Borough Council and environmental charity Groundwork South, supported by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Nick Terdre reports.

The Hidden Hastings Heritage project has received an award of £277,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its proposal to “uncover and showcase the rich natural, archaeological and historical heritage of Hastings Country Park,” in the words of  Groundwork South.

“Using some of the exciting and unique stories of the park, this project will engage with new and diverse audiences and raise awareness of the Park. We aim to improve visitors’ experiences by providing different methods of engagement, including an education programme, conservation volunteering, heritage trails, get-involved days and family events, a clear digital presence for the park and interactive online content,” says the environmental charity, part of the Groundwork federation, which says it works to transform lives in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities.

Among the hidden stories which will be brought to light, according to council leader Peter Chowney, are the “role of the park in the growth of Victorian Hastings, as home to RAF Fairlight, in the development of Radar during the First World War and links to notable local figures such as John Logie Baird and Marianne North.”

The two-year project will “offer new activities and events in the park for schools, community groups, local people and visitors,” he says in his latest ward report.

Friends of Country Park involved

The news was also welcomed by the Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve, which says it has been involved since the beginning.

The project will bring people into contact with history “such as the Country Park’s role in World War Two and the Cold War of the 1950’s; and its relationship to the development of Victorian Hastings such as the supply of water to the town,” chair Michael Moor told HOT.

“There are also links to artists, botanists and inventors such as John Logie Baird to be celebrated.”

There will also be “some capital works to improve access and paths,” Groundwork South says. That possibly offers a glimmer of hope that accessibility in the park may be improved by using some of the funding to restore the paths across Ecclesbourne Glen which have been closed for several years as a result of landslips.

The point is picked up by the Save Ecclesbourne Glen group, which told HOT: “We hope that a fair proportion of the funding will be used to improve footpaths and access to the Country Park. Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council claim that the footpaths across Ecclesbourne Glen are still likely to slide further but refuse to produce any evidence of this or to release reports concerning the landslip…To date HBC have refused to apply for grant funding for remedial works in the glen.”

New visitor centre

Groundwork South is also HBC’s partner in the new visitor centre, which it is to manage for 10 years. After lengthy delays, construction of the centre is now expected to begin later this month, Cllr Chowney says in the ward report. Some timber frame pieces have already been assembled off-site.

The centre will be an environmentally friendly building constructed from straw bales, but as the technique is new, it took time to find builders who could take on the job. The contract has now been awarded to a consortium headed by SIA Design and Build and including the specialist straw bale companies Green and Castle, Red Kite and Huff and Puff Construction. The straw bales have been delivered and are in storage on a nearby farm.

The visitor centre is the recipient of EU funding under the Interreg North West Europe programme. A year ago the HBC Cabinet approved a new budget of £771,000, including £402,000 of EU monies. When the project was launched in 2014, it was expected to cost some £450,000 and be ready in 2015.

 

Posted 18:46 Wednesday, May 8, 2019 In: Home Ground

3 Comments

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  1. Bolshie

    Yes Ms Doubtfire not a word about the Rocklands landslip that I am sure the council will not want to be included or even mentioned. Especially that Coffey Report and don’t forget how HBC spent around £50K of public money going to a Tribunal contesting the Information Commissioners Office telling them they should publish it. The report one can classify as an “Official Secret.”
    As for this so called Visitors Centre you could not make that one up could you. Something like five years to find someone to build it that Huff n Puff house. Just think in HBC was a business? It would never make it in real life. But of course the money for these two things mentioned is guaranteed no matter what – from us the Tax Payer

    Comment by Bolshie — Friday, May 10, 2019 @ 08:30

  2. Chris Hurrell

    One “hidden story” that this project won’t shed any light on is the murky saga of the landslip and Ecclesbourne Glen . HBC continue to refuse to release any information on drainage and land stability.

    Cllr Chowney praises the park, the history etc etc and yet HBC under his leadership suppress information and won’t lift a finger to take any remedial action to remove the source of the landslip and allow the glen to be reopened.

    The footpaths including the Coastal Path have been closed for 6 years now. There seems to be no possibility they will be reopened. The new England Coastal Path will suffer a significant diversion because of this.

    The heritage of Ecclesbourne Glen will remain closed and hidden.

    Comment by Chris Hurrell — Friday, May 10, 2019 @ 08:30

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    A great pity the ‘hidden stories’ do not include the confidential Coffey Report which apparently holds the key to what caused the major landslip in the Rocklands caravan park area.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, May 9, 2019 @ 17:10

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