Myerscough College will soon be offering courses at a new centre in Cheshire after plans to transform a historic site in Warrington moved a step closer.
Walton Hall Gardens has been awarded nearly two million pounds from the National Lottery via the Heritage Lottery Fund to transform and restore part of the estate. The Walton Estate is a thriving public park attracting more than 200,000 visitors a year from across the north-west and further afield. The 32-acre site was purchased by Warrington Borough Council in 1941 and has been enjoyed as a park for the people of Cheshire since 1945.
Warrington Borough Council worked with Myerscough College, along with other partners, Walton Lea Partnership and the Friends of Walton Estate on the winning bid, which includes plans to restore the historic conservatory and stable buildings and transform the old buildings into a dedicated learning centre.
The Walton Lea Partnership is a charity that provides supported employment for adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems, mobility issues and early onset Alzheimers. Meanwhile, The Friends of Walton Estate is an active volunteer group who share a common belief in the value of open spaces and a particular love of Walton Estate.
Helen Eaton is Assistant Principal of Myerscough College’s Merseyside campus in Liverpool at Croxteth Park, and has worked with the other partners on the bid so far. She said: ‘’We’re delighted to be part of the exciting new project at Walton Hall Park. The partners have worked together for a number of years in the delivery of apprenticeships and adult education programmes.
‘’This is a fantastic opportunity for the people of Warrington to engage in full time education programmes in Walton Hall Park. In addition to the restoration of the conservatory and shippon areas as part of the project, the students will support and enhance the maintenance of the park within their practical sessions.’’
The stable yard, once occupied by Lady Daresbury’s prized Kerry cattle, will become classrooms and offices, with the historic conservatory and vinery used as teaching, growing and display space. The subjects taught at the new learning centre will include horticulture and animal care, with students carrying out project work on the Walton Estate and in the Children’s Zoo as part of their course.
Walton Lea Partnership’s work will be carried out side by side with the College, allowing people of all ages and abilities to learn and thrive together.
An important part of the National Lottery-funded project will be to reopen the conservatory area to visitors to Walton. Part of the main conservatory will be a public space where visitors can learn about the horticultural heritage of the site and see development and training work being undertaken.
Cllr Tony Higgins, executive board member for culture, leisure and community, said: “I’m delighted that this integral part of our borough’s cultural heritage is receiving this massive cash injection. We have worked very hard with our partners to bring in this funding which will benefit the whole Walton Estate.
“Thanks to National Lottery players we will now be able to restore the grand conservatories and beautiful buildings to their former glory and setting within the gardens.”
As part of the project, a programme of events and activities will be planned that will aim to connect visitors to the popular gardens to the heritage and history of the site.
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by Dave Salmon