Wilton Lodge plan scoops £2.6M

PLANS to revamp one of the jewels in Hawick’s crown – Wilton Lodge Park – have been given a massive £2,662,300 shot in the arm.

That’s the size of the grant announced this week by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project – subject to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) match funding.

The work will create an Outdoor Heart of Hawick in the park by replacing missing heritage features such as the former bandstand, as well as conserving existing war memorials and fountains, introducing a new play park, café and footbridge, and hard and soft landscaping works. The project is expected to start in the summer of next year and be complete by spring 2018.

As well as conservation work, other planned improvements include better integration with Hawick Museum by opening a new and interactive park gallery, an outdoor classroom for visiting groups, signing and interpretation throughout the park, and a funded activity plan to encourage more visitors to Wilton Lodge Park.

The reintroduction of the former bandstand will provide a focus as an event space with the electricity supplies required for a modern outdoor venue. This will open up opportunities such as Cinema in the Park as well as a more traditional location for local bands to play.

Further proposals include some of the land in the walled garden being turned over for a community food-growing project.

The park currently atttracts more than 239,000 people annually and it is anticipated that the improvements will not only see the number of visitors increase, but also the time spent in the park, in and the town as a whole.

SBC’s executive member for environmental services, Councillor David Paterson, said: “Wilton Lodge Park has played a significant role in the community and the history of Hawick over the years. It is a beautiful park just now, but with investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Borders Council we have the opportunity to restore some of the historic elements to secure their future, as well as introduce new attractions.”

Fellow Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall added: “I think it’s going to be a real boost for Hawick and a huge amount of credit must go to the Friends of Wilton Lodge Park, who for the past five years or so have been instrumental in driving this bid forward.”

Colin McLean, who heads the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, commented: “We are delighted to be able to bring some festive cheer to Wilton Lodge Park. The park is a wonderful legacy from our ancestors which is enjoyed by all people of all ages.

“A beautiful space in which to relax away from the pressures of daily life, this project will encourage even more people through its gates and forge new links with the community.”

z SBC is currently finalising its capital plan and by February a decision on a matched-funding contribution of £725,000 will be made.