Picturesque Apedale Country Park in Newcastle has earned the praise of local MP Paul Farrelly after being shortlisted in the finals of a nationwide competition to find the best park in Britain.
The park was once the site of an opencast coal mine but was transformed into a beauty spot and nature reserve in the 1990s when the mining came to an end.
Its landscape of woodland, meadows and pools now provides a rich habitat for wildlife including owls, hawks, skylarks and great crested newts, and its networks of paths are a base for nature trails and guided walks.
From their centre in the park, rangers employed by Staffordshire County Council also lay on courses in gardening and woodworking for community groups.
There is also a renewable energy centre, which is used to promote conservation, and the 500-acre park is overlooked from its highest point by a giant pit wheel which reminds visitors of its coal mining heritage.
Newcastle’s MP Paul Farrelly - a long-time supporter of the Country Park and the Mining Heritage Centre that is also situated there - said he was delighted that Apedale had been shortlisted among the best in the country in the competition run by the Fields in Trust charity.
“Apedale is a fantastic community asset that is right on the doorstep of Newcastle and its achievement in making it into the finals is a just reward for all the hard work that has gone into maintaining it over the years,” he said.
“The development of the country park has also provided the perfect environment for the other tourist attractions that are now permanent features of Apedale. These include the award-winning mining museum and the light railway,” Mr Farrelly said.
The park is owned and managed by Staffordshire County Council which is currently carrying out consultations on its management and Mr Farrelly said it was vital that its long-term future is secured.
“So many of our parks and open spaces are at risk of being sold off,” he said. “I sincerely hope the Council will safeguard it as a resource for future generations to enjoy and not allow short-term financial pressures to put it at risk.”
Two other Staffordshire parks – Deep Hayes, near Leek, and Hatherton Reservoir, alongside the M6 Toll Road at Cannock – were also included among the top 17 in the final of the Fields in Trust competition. The winning park will be announced next month.
Our photo was taken in 2007 when Paul joined volunteers at the unveiling of the miners’ wheel that overlooks the park, off Blackbank Road, Alsagers Bank.