Stortford castles transformation is crowning glory of 2m plans for town centre park
A masterplan for the 2m transformation of Sworders Field and Castle Gardens in Bishops Stortford has been revealed.
It includes such measures as:
* Opening up access to the top of the castle mound, planting wildflowers around the base and lighting it up at night
* Improvements to the River Stort’s habitat and installation of a pontoon
* A new bridge to link the children’s play area and splash park
* A new cafe building with toilets and two community rooms for hire
* A new space for teenagers incorporating skate, parkour and adventure play and
* Relocated tennis courts.
The seeds to revitalise the open spaces in the heart of the town – renamed Castle Park – were planted in 2017 when £250,000 was awarded through the Parks for People programme, part of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.
It enabled East Herts Council, Bishop’s Stortford Town Council and Hertfordshire County Council’s Countryside Management Service to work together to bring a scheme to fruition.
A further £2m bid was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of August. A decision is expected in December. In the meantime, a detailed planning application has been submitted after a year of consultation with residents to shape the scheme.
Cllr Graham McAndrew, EHC’s executive member for parks and open spaces, said: “We’re really excited about the potential for Castle Park if our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is successful.
“There’s a huge amount of investment taking place in Bishop’s Stortford and we’re pleased that this – along with plans for Old River Lane, which include improved links to Castle Park – will offer fantastic new and improved facilities for residents and visitors to our town.”
The detailed plans for Castle Park are focused around:
* improving accessibility for all users
* protecting and conserving the heritage of the park
* improving biodiversity and
* creating a community space.
New paths, a surfaced space for teenagers, a bridge and general resurfacing will connect Castle Gardens and Sworder’s Field.
Access to Waytemore Castle will be improved through cladding and levelling of the steps. Specialist conservation work will take place to protect the Norman fortress’s remains and the ancient well at the top of the motte will be opened for safe viewing.
To return the castle to its prominent position in the landscape, trees and the existing surrounding hedge will be removed. Instead, wildflower planting will surround the mound to create an ornate and wildlife-rich setting.
Lighting will bring the castle alive at night and interpretation boards will allow people to visualise the past.
A simple, reflective space will be created, with 11 small trees planted within the hedge of the main war memorial to represent Armistice Day on November 11 and extra space will be created for the public to pay their respects each Remembrance Sunday.
The River Stort will become a feature, with habitat improvements to benefit wildlife. Tree management will allow more light to the river and features called brash berms will be installed by volunteers, introducing a varying flow and helping to establish marginal plants.
A new attractive and accessible bridge will link the children’s spaces and the events spaces together with a pontoon, enabling visitors to reach the water’s edge.
A new café will invite more visitors to the park and provide income, with two community rooms available for private hire. The building will include public toilets, including a new Changing Places facility – large disabled toilets with an adult changing bed and a hoist.
The area to the south of the building will be converted into a community garden, and an inclusive and accessible space will be created for teenagers, including skate, parkour and adventure play.
The existing tennis courts will be relocated near this activity area.
To get involved in the next stage, see www.friendsofcastlepark.net