Park centre shows £8m new face

IT BEGAN as a 13th century hunting park and yesterday one of Roundhay Park's jewels was opened to the public following restoration

A new centre, based in the Mansion, traces the park's transformation from its origins as a deer park to being one of the most popular parks in the north.

Over the past few years a painstaking 8m restoration process has been under way to ensure that while the stunning parkland adapts to modern use it also remains faithful to its origins.

It includes a new visitor and education centre and offices for estate management staff and park rangers. An earlier scheme for the Mansion had to be revised when objectors complained too much space was being given to offices.

Roundhay emerged as a 13th century hunting park after being awarded to the de Lacy family by William the Conqueror in return for support during the king's campaigns. In the early 1800s it was bought by the Nicholson family, which set about building the Mansion as its home and commissioning the 700-acre rolling landscape as its gardens.

The 8m restoration project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has seen Victorian shelters and Barran's Fountain renovated, pathways upgraded and new flower beds and planting and maintenance to the areas around the two lakes and the Canal Gardens.

Coun John Procter, Leeds City Council's executive member for leisure, said: "Roundhay Park is quite simply stunning and an amazing asset to have in the middle of a big city."

Coun Matthew Lobley (Roundhay, Cons) said: "The visitor and education centre is full of fascinating facts about the park and the area throughout history. It will be an excellent resource for local people to learn about the important role that Roundhay has played in the history of Leeds as well as the plants and geological features of the park."

The park, which has hosted events including pop concerts, is expected to gain II* status once restoration is complete.

The new visitor centre will demonstrate the park's ecology and geology as well as its history, archaeology and popular culture. It will trace the de Lacy roots through to the park's purchase by the city of Leeds and its opening as a park in 1872 and to the present day.