Park returns to bygone era

Opening of Blagdon South Park by Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with Viscount Ridley and Banks Group chairman Harry Banks.
Opening of Blagdon South Park by Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with Viscount Ridley and Banks Group chairman Harry Banks.
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THE scars of mining have faded away for Northumberland parkland after extensive restoration.

Work has been carried out at South Park on the Blagdon Estate to replicate the landscape of 200 years ago.

The historic parkland was wiped out by mining activity in the 1950s, with original post-war restoration based around food production, rather than heritage.

There was further disruption with the operation of the Delhi surface mine by Banks Mining between 2002 and 2009.

But Banks was always keen to restore the parkland in the style of Northumberland landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown that influenced the original layout.

A sketch plan of the estate from 1755 was used, along with aerial photographs from the 1940s.

Now new trees have been planted in the position of the original ones, while the uninterrupted pastures of the 18th-century park have been recreated.

Blagdon’s South Drive, which was closed during the later stages of the mining works, has re-opened, and a new lake has been created, which lines up with the southern facade of the Grade I-listed Blagdon Hall.

Banks Environment and Community Director Mark Dowdall said: “The restoration of the surface mines that we operate is as important a part of their lifespan for us as the mining operations themselves.

“In returning the land to how it would have looked more than two centuries ago, our focus has very much been on the cultural and heritage aspects of the area, as well as on its ecology and biodiversity, and we’re extremely pleased with the results.

“This work marks the early stages of a five-year aftercare period during which Banks will continue to look after the land, carrying out further tree planting and maintenance, as well as under-drainage, cultivations, seeding and planting of aquatic plants around the lake and pond.”

The restored area is not usually open to the public, but can be seen during several charity open days hosted by the estate, including the National Gardens Scheme and a Cyrenians event next month.

Estate Chief Executive Bob Downer said: “A huge amount of careful planning and detailed work has gone into this restoration scheme to ensure the final outcome matches what we were looking to recreate. The landscape and ecological enhancements that have been implemented have returned the land to how it would have looked before any industrial work was carried out in the area and will also have a positive long-term impact on its future management and condition.

“Re-opening the South Drive is an important part of the project and will offer an excellent view of the restored parkland for visitors coming into the estate for our events.”

A re-opening ceremony for the park was led by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson on Friday.

For further details about Blagdon open days visit www.blagdonestate.co.uk/events