More than 100 people gathered today for the launch of the GWR Park Blossom Circle.
The eastern side of GWR Park has been transformed with the addition of a new Blossom Circle and formal gardens, and South Swindon Parish Council officers and contractors have worked throughout winter to deliver the project.
The National Trust, through its nationwide Blossom programme intended to highlight the beauty of nature, and with fellow Swindon-based organisation English Heritage, are investing a total of about £126,000 into the improvements at the park.
The improvements are a which is a key part of Swindon’s Heritage Action Zone, through which Historic England are supporting Swindon Borough Council and local organisations such as South Swindon Parish Council to deliver a range of projects aimed at revitalising the wider Railway Village.
VIPs at today's launch included National Trust Director General Hilary McGrady, Historic England Chief Executive Duncan Wilson, Mayor of Swindon Cllr Abdul Amin, South Swindon Parish Council Chair Cllr Chris Watts and Swindon Borough Council leader Cllr David Renard.
Cllr Watts said: "At the turn of the century until the Second World War, GWR Park was at its very best with investment in dedicated staff to maintain the park.
"Sadly, after the Second World War, as Swindon began to expand and other parks emerged in the town, the park began to lose its historical significance and features.
"The parish council started managing GWR Park at around the same time as the Railway Village became a designated Heritage Action Zone. We soon delivered new features in the park with a refurbished railway-themed play park, a refurbished human sundial, a new WWI memorial and the International Mother Language Day Memorial."
Cllr Watts added: "However, these improvements are not the sum of our ambitions. For a long time people have told us they wanted to see the park brought back to its former glories.
"I am delighted to say that through working with Historic England, the National Trust and Swindon Borough Council, the improvements we see today are the start of that journey to return GWR Park as a destination heritage park in Swindon and beyond."
National Trust Director General Hilary McGrady, who revealed that she regularly runs in the park, said: "Over the years I have seen this park really progress, and it feels so appropriate that we are here today to celebrate this Blossom Circle.
"If you think of what Octavia [Hill], our founder, wanted, she wanted to have outdoor living rooms for people that didn't have access to green space and to nature, and then wonderful visionaries from the GWR and Brunel recognised that need for people to have access to beauty, that it was a human right to have that.
"That was the vision that created this gorgeous park, and I am so pleased to hear that this is actually the start of a journey to make it better and better, because I see this park being used all the time by lots of different people for different reasons. People just relaxing, people exercising, people playing, and I think that's amazing."
Historic England Chief Executive Duncan Wilson said: "Swindon has a fantastic heritage, mostly connected - not entirely - with the GWR, and we in Historic England, as in the National Trust, feel a big investment in that because we work here."
Noting that the park was built for Railway workers based in the buildings which now house English Heritage, the National Trust and other organisations, he added: "It seems entirely appropriate to treasure it, to create new things of interest in it to bring people here."
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