As part of efforts to involve local people in the £3 million restoration of Wharton Park – which have also seen children create a new miners’ banner – the city attraction’s Friends, Edible Durham and Fruitful Durham have contributed to a community garden.
And as families are given their first chance to see the results of the spectacular upgrade – with gates open from 11am to 3pm on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May – they are being invited to add their own finishing touch to the year-long refurb.
Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, arts and culture, said: “Wharton Park has for over 150 years been at the heart of community life in Durham, and it is fantastic to see that through projects like the new garden, banner, and children’s guide local families are able to play their own part in this incredible restoration.”
Wharton Park hugs the hillside to the north of the city centre and there has been a formal park on the site since 1858, when William Lloyd Wharton gave use of Windy Hill to the people of Durham.
Occupying a plot near the railway station, the park has commanding views of the Castle and Cathedral and in August 1871 it played host to Durham Miners’ Association first Gala.
It is that which inspired a project that saw pupils from Neville’s Cross and St Margaret’s Primary schools help to create a new hand painted, double sided silk miners’ banner, which is to go on display at the park’s new heritage centre.
The children worked with Emma Shankland from Durham Bannermakers, creating drawings for the banner, which were then turned into an overall design.
Louise Vest, the council’s parks and countryside programme officer for Wharton Park, said: “It was really important to us to celebrate Wharton Park’s links with mining heritage in Durham.
“And the fact that so many young people have been able to work on this project and create a lasting reminder of the park’s past is fantastic.”
The restoration of the 4.3 hectares park has been carried out thanks to £2.45 million from the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery funds, with additional support from the Council and Durham Area Action Partnership bringing the total investment to £3 million.
It reopens on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May with a weekend of family friendly events, including live performances, wandering storytellers, free arts and crafts, coached sports sessions, outdoor gym equipment classes and circus workshops.
Those big top style sessions will see Let’s Circus teach the art of juggling, hula hooping, spinning plates, uni-cycling and – though places are limited – how to make your own juggling balls.
New Zealand duo Brothers Swag will also bring a hilarious and high-skilled frolic of playful comedy to the amphitheatre to entertain visitors, with top class mini-hooping, giant balloons, whip cracking and hats, used to build mind bending and beautiful illusions.
And if that all becomes too much visitors can relax in the park’s café, look around the brand new heritage centre, take in the spectacular view of the Cathedral from the battery or have a go on the restored miniature car track.
Parking at the site during the celebration weekend will be restricted to blue badge holders only.
Visitors are urged to use Durham’s Park and Ride on the Saturday and public transport on the Sunday, though there is also free parking at County Hall.
If arriving by foot from the city centre festival makers will be on hand to advise on routes into the park as access via Framwellgate Peth is very steep and an alternative route, via North Road, may be more suitable for some people.
For more information about Wharton Park and the celebration weekend visit www.durham.gov.uk/whartonpark