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‘Proud’ day as Newmarket's revamped play area is handed back to children

Gardens (8374511)
Gardens (8374511)

Being a local councillor is so often a thankless task you need a thick skin and the wisdom to accept that, no matter how hard you try, you will never please all of the people all of the time.

But no-one who was at the re-opening of Newmarket’s refurbished memorial hall gardens on Friday could fail to have been pleased with the work of the members of the town council in completing a project to give its young residents a place to play of which they can be proud.

“It was a very proud moment,” said Cllr Amy Starkey, who together with Cllr Philippa Winter and Cllr Robert Nobbs spearheaded the project team responsible for the refurbishment. “The sun shone down on us, and our town, particularly the children who loved the new gardens.”

The council’s Memorial Gardens master plan took root in 2017 and stepped up a gear the following year with the submission of a planning application aimed at completely refurbishing an historic space, which was once a stable yard where Classic winners were trained, to create an inspiring and engaging play area for the town’s youngsters.

Cllr Rachel Hood and MP Matt Hancock with competition winner Sadie Curtis
Cllr Rachel Hood and MP Matt Hancock with competition winner Sadie Curtis

And the project team comprising councillors and a number of local experts sought to acknowledge and enhance the character and heritage of Newmarket, and also worked with local school children to decide on a castles and royalty theme for the play area.

Funding for the project was secured through a number of sources, including a significant contribution from Newmarket Town Council, along with other grants, public funding, and donations received from members of the town’s horse racing community.

As well as the stunning castle centrepiece, water feature, zip wire, rustic climbing frame and basket swing, the gardens now boast a new sensory wall created and built by specialist designer Mike Ayres, an expert in creating equipment for people with special needs. He designed the wall specifically for the gardens work and it incorporates iconic views from around Newmarket.

Newmarket Memorial Hall gardens opening (8344629)
Newmarket Memorial Hall gardens opening (8344629)

Matt Hancock, Newmarket’s MP who took a break from the Brexit debate to re-open the gardens was visibly impressed.

“The manner in which the space has been designed not only with the involvement of the community but also in keeping with the surroundings and the town’s history and heritage is a credit to all involved and I commend their hard work,” he said.

I also extend my gratitude to all of those who helped to fund the project.”

Cutting the ribbon with him was eight-year-old Sadie Curtis, a pupil at the town’s All Saints’ School whose poem, What Community Means to Me, was chosen as the winner of a creative writing competition organised to coincide with the opening.

She also bagged four tickets to see Disney On Ice at the O2 Arena in London in December.

Newmarkey memorial hall gardens opening (8344649)
Newmarkey memorial hall gardens opening (8344649)

“The standard of entries was incredibly high and we thank everybody for the hard work they clearly put into their pieces,” said town mayor Cllr Rachel Hood.

“It was fantastic not only to see the amount of writing talent our young people possess but also the love they have for their community.

“ It is something that gives us great hope for Newmarket’s future.”

See more pictures inside this week's Newmarket Journal.


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