Local residents can enjoy more spaces to get active and have fun with the opening of two new outdoor play and fitness facilities at a newly restored South Shields park.
The historic North Marine Park in South Shields has undergone a transformation - funded by a £2.4m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund - to return it back to its Victorian splendour.
Major construction works delivered by contractor, Esh Construction, have involved reinstating some of the park's original features such as the iconic Grand Promenade staircase, which opened in December.
However, the regeneration project also includes new park features, including an exciting Roman and maritime-themed children's play area and a smart new adult fitness trail, both now ready to be enjoyed.
Councillor Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "We are delighted to see the wonderful new play park and trim trail opening. They not only mark key milestones in this very exciting regeneration project, but they offer additional spaces for both adults and children in this area at this time.
"Events of this past year have really demonstrated the importance and value of outdoor spaces like the beautifully restored North Marine Park, play areas and fitness opportunities and the impact they can have on our physical and mental wellbeing.
"We really hope that local people enjoy these new areas and we look forward to welcoming visitors from further afield in the future once the Government's restrictions are relaxed."
The new North Marine Play Park features 16 pieces of bespoke brightly-coloured play equipment reflecting the Borough's rich maritime heritage and inspired by the nearby Arbeia Roman Fort. It comes complete with several swings, 'shipwreck' slides, a mast, drawbridge, see-saw, springers, multi-play climbing frames and a wheel-chair accessible roundabout.
The Proludic Vitality Trim Trail is designed for those aged 14 and over and features 11 specialist steel obstacles that enable users to enjoy free full body workouts outdoors.
The equipment includes pull-up and push-up stations, bars, hurdles and a sit-up bench, to name a few. As well as benefiting lone adults or friends wanting to improve their fitness, its location makes it ideal for use by parents or guardians supervising their children playing. The free Proludic Sports App works in conjunction with the new fitness trail.
Councillor Dixon said: "We know that people will be eager to visit. But it is important to remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and right now people should not be travelling from outside the area.
"As with all our parks, local residents who choose to use play or fitness equipment are advised to use them responsibly and take precautions to keep themselves, their children, families and others safe. This includes carrying and using hand wipes or sanitiser, washing hands, keeping a safe distance from others and avoiding spaces if they look too busy."
The £3.2m restoration of North Marine Park, which began in 2019, has also involved new public art installations, such as a Word Beacon sculpture on the Lawe Top and an interpretation of the park's former bandstand to create a new performance area.
Other completed works include a reconstruction of the park's original stone grotto, the refurbishment of the bowling clubhouse and green, park pavilion, Pier Parade and Beacon entrances as well as decorative new balustrades and stone copings.
New historical plaques and information boards are being sited throughout the park. One such board marks the site of the park's former Trinity Towers building, which was built in 1810 and demolished in 1969.
In addition, decorative urns - in the original terracotta Lion's heads design - will be fitted to the four corners of the striking newly restored Grand Promenade Staircase. General landscaping and grounds maintenance works will continue throughout the spring and summer.
Councillor Dixon added: "North Marine Park has remained available for the public throughout the entire restoration project, with parts of the site reopened on a rolling programme as and when works have been completed. It has been wonderful to see.
"The site really does promise to be a fantastic attraction this summer when hopefully we will be able to showcase the park in its full glory."
The North Marine Park restoration, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is a partnership between South Tyneside Council, Esh Construction, Southern Green landscape architects and the Friends of North and South Marine Parks, who have been working closely with the Council's regeneration team as well as dedicated Parks Officer, Jade Ridley.
David Renwick, Area Director for the North, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "Regenerating and conserving public parks remains a high priority for us as we commit to promoting more environmentally-sustainable heritage and improving people's health and wellbeing. We are proud to support South Tyneside Council in their restoration of North Marine Park."
North and South Marine Parks opened in June 1890. The northern park was created on 7.5 hectares of former ballast hills, with more space dedicated to trees, pathways and shrubbery. This park provided a more tranquil space than its southern neighbour, offering gentle pastimes such as bowling.
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK's heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund