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|Work has started on the rejuvenation of Gateshead's oldest public park, at Windmill Hills on Bensham Road.|
The old Town Park was originally opened in 1861 and, at that time, was the only public park in Gateshead. However, the Victorian terraces which once surrounded it are long gone and the park was largely forgotten when it was subsumed in the former St Cuthbert's Village housing development.
However, with Windmill Hills now demolished, work is underway on the £300,000 first phase of a scheme to completely renew the Town Park prior to it once more becoming a major asset for the local communities around it.
The scheme involves the planting of thousands of trees, shrubs and bulbs, as well as the construction of new seating and paths and the installation of new lighting. New railings, replacing those taken down at the start of the Second World War, will be erected and will carry motifs depicting the site's previous use — flour milling. Motifs will also hint at a period when Civil War skirmishes took place in the area.
Now that construction work is underway, existing footpaths on the site have had to be closed in the interests of public safety. However, work is expected to be finished by next Spring when the footpaths will be re-opened.
Councillor Norman Lakey, Gateshead Cabinet member responsible for leisure facilities says: "It is wonderful to see such an important piece of the town's history being restored to its former glory."
"The long-awaited development of new housing in the area means that the old Town Park can once again become a local asset. We are delighted to have the opportunity to resurrect it."
The park is being re-built as part of a major redevelopment of the former St Cuthbert's Village site at Windmill Hills, an elevated site offering impressive views westwards along the River Tyne.
The area is well-named; it was once a thriving milling centre with at least 11 working windmills, made of stone and brick, dotted amongst the rows of Victorian terraced houses. The mills gradually faded from use in the last century, and all were eventually demolished, although traces of some of the buildings remained well into this century.
Design work has also started on two further phases of work which will extend the park westwards and provide junior and teenage play equipment. It is also intended to submit a Sports Lottery bid to provide funding for multi-use sports facilities within the park.
Courtesy of http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/