Itchen Valley Country Park in West End has just been voted one of the best open spaces in the country in a national awards scheme - and in the coming months it will be made even better as a £3.3 million programme of improvements gets under way.
The Eastleigh Borough Council-operated park is well into its second decade of success in the Keep Britain Tidy charity’s Green Flag Award scheme, which is a nationally recognised mark of quality, confirming that it is well maintained, has excellent facilities and is professionally managed. The charity is celebrating as 2,208 parks – the largest number since the scheme began 26 years ago – are proudly preparing to raise their flags.
Itchen Valley Country Park’s 440-acres offer walking trails, water meadows, woodland and meadows, with a range of attractions, including a café, an indoor play area and outdoor play trail, together with picnic and barbecue facilities. The Go Ape treetops adventure is also based there.
Planned improvements, that get under way over the summer, include a new community building and remodelling of the existing Highwood Barn and Kingfisher Barn, better barbecue and picnic areas, upgraded play equipment, a Changing Places room for disabled users, a new central events and welcoming space, and a covered outdoor seating area for customers to the popular Woodland Café.
Councillor Cynthia Garton, Chair of the Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee, which recently approved the £3.3 million transformation, said: “It is a tribute to the hard work of our talented team that Itchen Valley Country Park has once again been recognised for Keep Britain Tidy’s Green Flag Award. Our future investment will bring exciting new elements that will make the park more accessible and appealing to an even wider audience, while still maintaining its valued role in promoting the health and wellbeing of visitors.”
Commenting on the announcement of this year’s winners, Keep Britain Tidy’s Chief Executive, Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, said: “Parks are an essential part of our green infrastructure, playing a key role in our environmental sustainability. They are often the beating heart of a community, providing countless benefits to people and wildlife.
“Importantly, they provide a green haven for everybody to enjoy, regardless of their age, social status or ability to pay for access. It’s clear from our research that for quality green spaces to meaningfully contribute to our health and wellbeing, they must be universally accessible and fit for purpose.
“The Green Flag Award is a vital component in ensuring the continuing quality of our parks and green spaces, making sure they are managed to the highest standards and are safe and accessible. The news that a record number have achieved the Green Flag Award standard is testament to the hard work of staff and volunteers who look after these national assets.”
Find out more about Itchen Valley Country Park at: www.eastleigh.gov.uk/ivcp
(Photo: rhp architects' impression of some of the improvements planned for Itchen Valley Country Park)