Park project to bring Houghton history to life

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Work on a £2 million project to restore Houghton Hall Park to its former glory could get underway by 2014, if lottery funding can be secured.

Central Bedfordshire Council wants the park to attract more visitors, and is aiming to cut anti-social behaviour there by getting local young people involved in the project.

The park was formerly attached to Houghton Hall, built in 1654, and still bears the hallmarks of its time as part of the estate, including avenues of trees and an ornamental garden.

Haydn Rees, senior fundraising and project officer, said the council wanted to get volunteers and students from the new university technical college involved in the project.

“We want it to be something that people have ownership of, so that they value it and use it,” he said.

The council’s initial funding bid was submitted in February, and the council will be submitting the second stage of its bid in the new year.

“The project will reflect the heritage and history of the area and the role that it has played in Houghton Regis,” said Mr Rees.

“The estate provided employment for people and local residents would have been very much involved with it, but with the growth in the area that kind of heritage has been lost.

“There are still people living in the area who remember what it was like when it was a more rural place.

“But lot of residents in Houghton Regis, particularly on the newer estates, don’t know about the history. So it’s trying to make a feature for the community.

“There are original historic features such as avenues of yew trees and chestnut trees, but you just don’t see them at the moment.”

Included in the plans are information panels to give visitors an insight into the park’s history, dedicated walking routes of different lengths, clearing of overgrown areas and restoration of the ornamental garden.

Research has included speaking to Houghton Regis residents, who Mr Rees said had been able to bring the estate’s history to life for the project team.

Councillor Brian Spurr, responsible for sustainable communities, said: “Houghton Hall Park has been a feature of life here for centuries and this project will help to ensure that it is here and loved for centuries to come.”