Park and recreation
Improvements to the landscape and watersports facilities in Druridge Bay Country Park have been taking place thanks to a series of grants and initiatives over the last year.
A £23,000 grant from Natural England was awarded to manage the dunes and the meadows around the lake. An annual grant of £11,000 per year for the next ten years means that and other much needed maintenance work can continue.
“This will enable us to carry on with the improvements to the rustic value of the park and land management” said Park Manager Graham Mitcheson.
A woodland improvement grant of £100,000 was also awarded to the park. This came from the Forestry Commission, to replant, thin out and remove trees around the park and to improve, maintain and create new paths. Work on the paths should be completed by the end of March 2014.
Interpretation boards and a variety of trails of different lengths will also be developed.
In recent years, the opening of the cafe and a series of outdoor events have encouraged more and more visitors to the park. “The cafe has had a really good year financially” said Graham. “This year we’ve seen our summer income up by 30% – of course events are weather dependent.
“We want to encourage people to come along and take part in watersports and we’re working with Coquet Shorebase Trust and Northumberland County Council to improve watersports facilities too, with a new building and launch facilities. Hopefully the works will be completed by the end of December.”
Graham sees the country park having a dual mission, to both encourage people to take part in events and activities at the park, whilst ensuring the natural peace and quiet remain unspoilt. “We’re looking at further development at the country park, but you will always find somewhere that’s quiet. We try not to fill every weekend with events, but it is an important part to make the country park grow.”
Finances being what they are these days, Graham also wanted to point out an area of his work which unfortunately has resulted in increased expenditure.
“This year already we’ve had to dispose of 20 dead seals. Each dead seal or porpoise reported on this beach we have to pick up and remove. And access can be a problem. We now have to remove all those which can’t be buried. It’s a huge cost to us – and it’s taxpayer’s money at the end of the day.”
The park is maintained by a small group of seasonal staff and volunteers, with some projects undertaken by groups such as the scouts, cadets and RAF Boulmer. Picnic tables and 300 bird boxes were built by prisoners at HMP Northumberland. The Community Payback Scheme has also provided assistance.
And what of the future? “ We’ve started a Friends of Druridge Bay Country Park group and want to invite people to join. It’ll probably meet once or twice a year. We’re also thinking of looking for grants to develop areas for limited camping.”