A new extension to the Rising Sun Country Park on North Tyneside was officially opened today by His Grace the Duke of Northumberland. Also participating in the launch of this fabulous new community facility was Norma Redfearn, Elected Mayor of North Tyneside.
Once one of the largest coal mines in Europe, today the Rising Sun Country Park is a very different place thanks to creative restoration carried out over several decades. The latest phase of this on-going restoration has been undertaken by Northumberland Estates on a section of Estate owned land which adjoins the existing Country Park. The project has been run in close collaboration with the Park’s management team and North Tyneside Council.
The original Country Park covered 162 ha (400 acres) of nature reserve with a Countryside Centre that runs community and educational events and a popular café. The new extension adds a further 35 ha (86 acre) of land and has been carefully designed to enhance the existing Park, but with the addition of new features including a series of ponds and new wetland habitats, an authentic hay meadow with eco hide, and an amphitheatre. Livestock will be introduced to graze the new hay meadows with local farmers spearheading management of the new extension.
From the beginning a major driver behind the plans was to improve access for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders as well as vehicles and this has included a new one way traffic system which has vastly improved safety. New signage and interpretation boards have also been included to enhance the overall visitor experience.
A massive tree and hedge planting programme has been undertaken which has seen around 200 trees, 32,000 hedge plants and 5,500 woodland shrubs and plants put in by Northumberland Estates.
The task of naming the new ponds fell to the Friends of Rising Sun Country Park who chose “The Meadow Ponds” which was suggested by member, John Baker This reflects the location as being next to the Hay Meadow, with both the ponds and the meadow considered important additions to the biodiversity of the Country Park Extension.
He was on site at the opening to see the presentation of a carved wooden name plaque by His Grace the Duke of Northumberland which had been designed by designed by Alan Wear to mark the occasion. This will be erected at the ponds.
Says Barry Spall, Development Planner at Northumberland Estates and responsible for overseeing the project, “Our aim from the start was to improve public access, increase the social, recreational and educational opportunities offered by the park while also enhancing the environmental and ecological habitats on site for the benefit of the surrounding communities. We have worked closely with the Country Park team to try to add to all that the Park already has to offer as well as adding vital green space for North Tyneside. The Friends of Rising Sun Country Park have also played a vital role in helping us create something for the whole local community to enjoy.
"The process has been a long one, and it will take many years for the trees and hedges to mature, but already the transformation is impressive. The park is already proving more and more popular and is a great example of how residential development can bring benefits to the wider community.”
North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE, said: “The Rising Sun Country Park is without a doubt one of our greatest assets in North Tyneside; a stunning green space in the heart of the borough which is enjoyed by many thousands of people each year.
“I am delighted to see work complete on the latest round of improvements, which I’m sure will help to open up the park to new visitors, enhance the overall experience, and raise the profile of a natural asset that must be one of the finest green spaces in the North East.”
More information on the story behind the Country Park extension can be found here