Hundreds of new trees are to be planted as part of the restoration of a historic South Shields park.
More than 550 new trees will be planted in North Marine Park, as South Tyneside Council carries out work to restore it back to its original Victorian splendour.
The council project has been supported by a £2.4m National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund.
North and South Marine Parks opened in June 1890, with the northern park created with more space dedicated to trees, pathways and shrubbery.
This provided a more tranquil space than its southern neighbour.
The park currently has more than 1,000 trees and 24 hedgerows, with some species dating back to the park’s inception.
And as part of the £3.2m restoration project, conservation will be enhanced with the planting of over 550 new trees.
These will replace around 280 trees which, regrettably, have to be thinned out, or removed, due to their quality or condition.
The trees identified for thinning or removal are largely self-sown, of a low quality – as classified by British standards – and currently restrict the health and growing conditions of the higher quality planted trees.
They exist mainly in the central park area, where large scale demolition works originally occurred in the 1970s to remove the grand staircase and historic footpath links to the Lawe Promenade.
The remainder of the park’s trees are classed as ‘moderate’ standard, as identified in an independent arboricultural survey undertaken in 2017.
Coun Nancy Maxwell, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “North Marine Park is well known for its abundance of beautiful trees and increasing the number of trees in the park will not only diversify the species in this area, but help to enhance ecology and improve wildlife habitats.
“However, as part of the multi-million pound restoration project, we have had to consider the park’s overall tree population, identifying weaker specimens which need thinning out or removing, particularly those that are diseased, decaying or potentially dangerous.
“It is always sad when any tree is removed, but these works are necessary to be able to ensure the protection and sustainability of the trees in this area.
"The new trees will help to enhance and replenish the existing tree stock.
“We would like to reassure people that we consider our environmental responsibility with the utmost importance and were one of the first local authorities locally to produce a comprehensive tree and woodland policy.
"It is our practice, that we plant two new trees for each one removed.
"The works in North Marine Park have also been carefully planned to avoid the bird nesting and bat roosting seasons.”
Preliminary tree works will start on site soon, ahead of contractors beginning the construction and restoration phases in the summer.
The park will remain open to visitors for the duration of construction which is expected to take around 12 months to complete.
Key elements of the wider National Lottery funded project include creating better links with Littlehaven Promenade and improving the area around the Lawe Top, which as the park’s highest point, acts as an incredible viewing platform for the coastline, harbour and mouth of the river.
The proposals for the park also include creating a new themed play area, which will reflect the borough’s maritime links and Roman heritage, and restoring the park’s original features such as the grotto and the grand promenade staircase.
Improvements to the park’s open areas, lighting, seating, footpaths and bowling area are also planned.
There are also plans to develop interpretation features and art work installations at the bandstand, grotto and Lawe Top areas as well as to create an event programme and ‘pay to play’ activities such as pitch and putt and bowling.
Christine Calvert, chairman of the Friends of North and South Marine Parks, said: “We have been working alongside the council, the community and the Heritage Lottery Fund throughout the process and fully support the plans to transform North Marine Park.
“We are really looking forward to seeing this wonderful space restored back to its Victorian splendour and are particularly excited that, after many years of planning, we are now starting to see work getting underway.
“Our members have the interests of the park at their hearts and are committed to its protection and upkeep.
"The restoration project is a great foundation, not only for future events and activities, but for us to encourage new members to help us ensure the park continues to flourish for the future.”
Coun Alan Kerr, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Culture and Leisure, said: “The park is an important part of our cultural heritage.
"It is a beautiful space, much loved by the local community for decades, and is recognised as a real haven of tranquillity.
"It is also the perfect place to relax, take a walk and enjoy panoramic views of our stunning coastline from the heights of the Lawe Top.
“The restoration will ensure the park’s heritage is retained while leaving a legacy for future generations to enjoy.”
For further information about the restoration of North Marine Park visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/northmarinepark
Anyone interested in joining the Friends of North and South Marine Parks and getting involved in the restoration project can email the group at email@example.com