A £3m project to breathe new life into a County Durham park has won national recognition.

Durham County Council’s restoration of Wharton Park in Durham City has been ‘highly commended’ in the Landscape Institute Awards 2017, in the heritage and conservation category.

The awards celebrate projects that protect, conserve and enhance the natural and built environment; and that demonstrate the highest levels of innovation, skill, and commitment to values such as green infrastructure, health and well-being, and natural capital.

The restoration of Wharton Park involved the building of a new heritage centre, cafe and play areas, creating a new visitors’ hub at the heart of the popular venue. It also involved the creation of a miniature car track and amphitheatre

The work was led by the council’s appointed landscape architect and lead designer Southern Green Ltd and completed in 2016 after 12 months.

Cllr Ossie Johnson, the council’s Cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, said: “It’s always satisfying to get national recognition of any kind so we’re delighted that what we’ve done at Wharton Park has been acknowledged by the Landscape Institute.

“The park really is looking great these days following the year long restoration project and visitors seem to really enjoy spending time there and we’d like to thank Southern Green and all our funders for helping us bring it to fruition.”

The Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery funds provided £2.45m for the restoration, with additional financial support coming from the council and its Durham Area Action Partnership.

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.

The park’s views of the city’s castle and cathedral were reportedly described by 19th century philosopher John Ruskin as “the eighth wonder of the world.”