We look forward to reopening the Gallery Upstairs as soon as restrictions permit. Meanwhile Upton Country Park would like us to pass on the following update.
Through this third lockdown the County Park continues to be a valued resource for the local community to take some exercise, enjoy some fresh air and time out in nature where they can socially distance. To facilitate visitors safely we continue with the one-way systems for the toilet facilities and boardwalks, undertaking regular checking to replace and refresh signage and messaging to our visitors.
With the toilets open and tea-room running a takeaway service, thanks to the hard work and talent of the Gallery Upstairs team, the wonderful bird display on the walkway ceiling has been receiving admiration from our visitors and its wonderful to hear their positive feedback and bird ID.
Upton House receives a makeover
Whilst the house has been closed some exciting changes have taken place. In addition to the new carpet that was fitted in December - a bespoke design inspired by some historic wallpaper and ornate ceiling roses found in the house. Today all of the chairs were returned to us having been reupholstered in a fabric and colour to go with the carpet. They’ve done a wonderful job and we think the new look looks fantastic.
2020 Dorset Tourism Awards finalists
Upton Country Park is delighted to have been named as finalists in two categories in the 2020 Dorset Tourism Awards: Business Events & Wedding Venue of the Year and Dog Friendly Business of the Year. We have also been commended in the Café/Tea Room of the Year category. The winners will be announced at the virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 4th February 2021 – we have our fingers crossed!
The assessments are based on pre-COVID times and it’s great that the Country Park has been recognised by the judges, providing a lovely morale boost as we continue to navigate our way through these uncertain and unusual times.
Though some activities have been put on hold, work on the Discovery Project Activity Plan has been moving forward despite the lockdown.
Volunteers have been involved with the Operations Team and have made a small start on re-instating our vistas from the House to the shoreline. New signage has gone up around the Country Park which links back to our website through the use of smart phones, explaining the Project and the changes that are happening on site. The information that it links to can be found on the website here: https://uptoncountrypark.com/discoveryproject/happening-now/
We have been joined by new volunteers for our research group, who have been continuing virtually, and have started work with Bournemouth University Students on our Upton Memories Project. We have also started recruiting volunteers to help with our community activities and learning programme.
The planned monthly Dads and Kids Club could not take place in person so was moved to an online downloadable activity pack which so far has had over 350 downloads! Similarly, we will be producing a series of videos on our website with the Urban Heaths Partnership for activities to do outdoors with Early Years children.
Planning work is carrying on for schools’ sessions, older people’s activities and health walks. We will also be hosting our first Access Focus Group discussion about our new plans in February with partners from across Dorset. If you would like to be involved in any of this, please do get in touch with Jennie.
Funded through the bid and in line with our financial regulations, a combined tender for the Stable Yard, Kennels and Fowl Shed works closed in January and after evaluations we hope to appoint the successful contractors in the coming weeks. The eight-week programme of works is likely to start shortly after with an aspiration to complete before May 2021.
Located near the historic glasshouses, Spurrier’s Kiosk has been operating successfully since Christmas. It is currently open at weekends and school holidays weather permitting offering a range of take-away drinks, snacks and packaged ice creams.
In readiness for the summer, we have recently replaced the floor covering as we look to offer scoop ice cream. We also plan to add some tables and seating in this area once social distance restrictions and budget allow.
Recognising customer demand, in January we introduced an extra cup size for hot drinks in The Tea Rooms and so now have a small, regular, and large available for purchase.
The new craft concession ‘Create @ Upton Country Park’ have been a welcome addition to the barn in the courtyard, encouraging visitors during the week or when experiencing poorer weather to still visit and use the Tea Rooms facility. They have been impacted by the national lockdowns and are currently only able to offer a click and collect service.
Winter works programme
Making the most of the winter period, it has been a busy few month for the Operations Team. We are delighted to retain our garden and conservation volunteers, albeit with a more comprehensive booking system and fewer numbers to maintain safe distances. In recent weeks, in addition to the routine maintenance, the team have focused on phased thinning along the Shoreline Woods and hedge-laying within the main car park.
The annual winter work in the Walled Garden and Borders have taken place, ensuring that the plants, hedges and fruit tree are pruned and protected against the cold – if you’re visiting, keep an eyes open for the jumpers on the Banana trees! In line with the works to restore and revive the Regency gardens, a large area of Laurel along the House drive has also been cleared to provide a more open approach and setting. In the coming weeks, the area will be raked and seeded with a grass and wildflower flower mix.
In line with our Management & Maintenance Plan, the team have started a phased thinning programme. The result will allow increase natural light to the ground for the benefit of the wildflowers and other lower growing vegetation. It will also reduce competition for the remaining trees to flourish.
The team have also continued to Halo below the veteran Oak tree canopies, building on the work started last winter and linking to the historic sightline we will be restoring through the Discovery Project.
Hedge laying in main car park
The latest phases form part of a 6 year process to lay the car park hedge separating the car park and agricultural fields. The results will improve the hedge, providing a wildlife corridor and habitat for flowers, invertebrates, bats, birds and mammals.
Hedge laying is an ancient technique where the tree is partially cut and then bent over, but slightly raised to ensure the sap continues to flows upwards to keep the tree alive. This process is repeated every 6 or 7 years and eventually the hedge forms a thick, stock proof boundary which provides excellent and much sought-after natural habitat.
Service pipe repairs
Over the last few weeks, contractors for Wessex Water have been working in the shoreline fields to replace a 12m length of ageing sewage pipe that runs across the estate. The significant repairs have created little disruption to visitors and thankfully are on schedule to finish in the coming weeks. Once the ground works are complete, the area and recently planted hedgerow will be reinstated by Wessex Water.
New faces within the team
We are delighted to welcome Gabby Hyman to the role of Visitor Services Officer. Gabby has fantastic experience working for the National Trust in similar roles and replaces Emma Coveney who left in September.
Next week, Jack Menezes starts as the new Environment & Conservation Apprentice. The role is supported through Kingston Maurward College and offers Jack up to 18mths practical experience to support the college work.
Looking ahead, the team look forward to the return of the FUCP and PEDAS teams. In the meantime, to keep momentum we will continue to work hard in driving forward our ambitious Discovery Project programme. Whilst also working closely with customers, activity providers and other partners to ensure we can react to the ever-changing climate.