VIEWS from space have revealed the results of a £6m improvement scheme for a ribbon of Tyneside parks.
Before and after satellite images show the impact of the two-year project, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, on the neighbouring Ouseburn Parks in Newcastle.
These include Jesmond Dene, Heaton Park, Armstrong Park and Paddy Freeman’s Park.
The parks are linked over a distance of 3.5km and total more than 160 acres of green space in the city.
The pictures capture the parks’ changing green landscape with restoration of the original, overgrown 19th-Century paths networks.
Almost four miles of paths have been improved and new stretches created.
Around 800 trees in the parks have been removed for a variety of reasons including diseased specimens, and others which posed a safety threat.
Other trees were removed to open up areas that were dark and intimidating for park users, and some trees were felled to open up sight lines and improve original vistas.
New planting schemes have also been carried out to replicate original designs, especially in Jesmond Dene. A bridge has been built across the Ouseburn under Armstrong Bridge to create a new entrance to the dene, where Pets Corner has been revitalised and the new Millfield visitor centre has been picking up awards.
More could be in the offing as Gateshead-based Southern Green, landscape consultants for Ouseburn Parks, have been shortlisted for the national Landscape Institute Awards later this month for their work on the Newcastle project.
The project has also seen a new cafe at Heaton Park Pavilion.
“The satellite images show the changes to the parks’ landscape quite vividly,” said Ouseburn Parks manager Seamus Tollitt.
Nigel Todd, city council deputy cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “We have invested heavily in our parks over the last 10 years and as a result we received a record number of Green Flag Awards for 2012/13. The awards recognise the high standard of management, maintenance, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement that goes into the city's parks and the images speak for themselves.
“As well as landscaping and improving path networks, we have also worked to enhance a number of historic features and make them more accessible.”
Improvements have also been made to green spaces and play areas at Leazes Park and Hodgkin Park, in Benwell, while Exhibition Park is next in line for a makeover. Green Flag parks include Jesmond Dene, Heaton Park, Paddy Freeman’s Park, Walker Park, Brandling Park, Leazes Park, Nuns Moor Park, Elswick Park, Gosforth Central Park, Benwell Nature Park and the Tyne Riverside Country Park.
Park improvements reveal hidden history
HISTORIC features in the parks have been highlighted by a programme of improvements and the provision of interpretation panels which tell their stories.
Overgrowth and masking trees have been removed to improve the visibility and setting of King John’s Palace in Heaton Park and its surroundings have now been landscaped.
“Because the area was so overgrown, not many people knew about this historic structure,” said Ouseburn Parks manager Seamus Tollitt.
The “Palace” is the ruins of a fortified manor house built in 1255 by Adam of Jesmond. Despite its name, King John never visited the house - he died 50 years before it was built. However, Adam was friend and protector to Edward, King John’s grandson.
The house was built in a time of conflict between the barons and the king so the house was built like a small castle.
Adam left the house when he joined Prince Edward as one of his bodyguards on a crusade to the Holy Land. The prince returned and became King Edward I, but Adam never came back.
Improvements have also been carried out to the Jesmond Dene setting of the ruins of St Mary’s Chapel, the oldest church building in Newcastle. Much of the original church is now gone and what remains was once part of the 15th Century side chapel. Another historic landmark which has received attention are the remains of Armstrong Park windmill, which once processed grain from the farms in the Heaton area but was in ruins by 1844.