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£150k plan for visitors’ centre at country park
THE visitors’ centre at Colchester’s biggest beauty spot is to get a £148,000 overhaul as it celebrates the 25th anniversary of its rescue from developers.
In 1987, the Countryside Commission designated 370 acres of woodland, marshes and rolling countryside as High Woods Country Park, after a 15-year long battle to stop homes being built on part of it.
Next month, Colchester Council will host a Big Birthday Bash featuring trails, obstacle courses, demonstrations and more to celebrate the occasion And council officers are also drawing up a planning application for an upgrade of the visitors’ centre, using developers’ contributions.
The woods had played a part in both world wars, with large ash trees used to build aircraft in the First World War and timber stock requisitioned during the Second World War.
In the Seventies, much of the park’s southern slopes were earmarked for homes until a campaign by councillors, including current Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell , saw a planning application narrowly blocked.
Then, in April 1979, Colchester Council bought the northern part of High Woods from the Impey family for public open space, before applying to the Countryside Commission in 1985.
Permission was forthcoming two years later, along with grants to help conserve the area.
Sir Bob, who grew up in nearby Mile End, said many local youngsters had played in the woodland before the area was officially designated and protected.
He said: “We need, in our urban environment, all the open spaces we have – we’re one of the fastest-growing boroughs in the country.
Colchester Council wants to upgrade the visitors’ centre’s public toilets, offer better facilities for volunteers and change the offices used by countryside rangers.
An application in 2010 for a £200,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to extend the centre was rejected, and the authority has been looking for funding sources since then.
The Big Bash Party will take place on Sunday, September 23, from 11am until 5pm. Parking will be free for one day only, but the northern end of Turner Road will be closed for roadworks, so access is via the southern entrance.