Would Lady Wantage be disappointed with Abington Park?

Last Sunday morning, that’s the 8th January for those who are reading this in weeks to come I went for a walk with Liz and Barney (who happens to have more face book followers than me, but he is a Labrador so no contest really) to Abington Park and it occurred to me to ask would Lady Wantage be proud of the park.

I should explain for those that don’t know that Lady Wantage bequeathed the land for Abington Park to the people of Northampton in 1892, so this year will be the 120th anniversary of what was a very generous bequest that is enjoyed by thousands of people a year.

The park itself contains the former village of Abington and was where some of the first uses of trial by ducking-stool were tried out, or so the story goes.

What was pleasing was the number of people in the Park, the football fields were being used by both adults and younger players being supported and cheered on by their families and supporters.

I was impressed by the behaviour of the parents who were watching the game between young Under 11 teams.

When I worked as a Youth Development Officer for Rugby Development in Northampton I occasionally had to saunter alongside what we at the time called OAF’s (Over Anxious Fathers) and have a quite word to calm them down.

It was great to see a Community Pay Back team working in the woods alongside the lakes relaying ‘wood chippings’ on the footpaths.

The play area was full of children who alongside the joggers, dog walkers and those just out for a walk gave the Park a real feeling of activity and a place that is highly valued by the people using it.

On the other side of the park people were looking at the Old Manor House now the Abington Park Museum and some remarked it was a pity it was closed on the day when the people could visit.

A cup of hot chocolate and sausage batch in the Abington Park Cafe on a Sunday morning is highly recommended, the service is excellent and they are pet friendly which is appreciated by everyone who like us were being taken for a walk by their dogs.

The Park is a fantastic facility, referred by many, not unfairly as the jewel in the crown of Northampton’s Parks so how having said that can it be improved?

I think so and the improvements would not be too costly and I’m sure the people who use the Park would agree with me.

The museum should be re-opened at a weekend and promoted not only for its exhibits but as the fantastic 16th Century building it is and I know many supported my opposition to the cuts in the museum hours as part of the Borough Council savings of a couple of years ago and would not be pleased to see any more cuts to the museum service.

Some of the plaques on the trees planted by former Mayors Consorts and visitors to Northampton are missing or damaged and should be replaced to really highlight the importance of the Park.

The Park aviaries need to be upgraded to give a better habitat for the birds and a better experience to the parents and their children who were looking at the birds and especially the peacocks on Sunday morning

Perhaps the greatest and most essential improvement is the need for the immediate repair and restoration of the Public Toilets in the Park.

It is grossly unfair on the staff that the only reasonable facilities are in the Park Cafe.

I have along with many called for the toilets to be repaired and upgraded and make no apology for attaching photos of both the Gentlemen’s and Ladies which show how unhygienic and unwelcoming is the state of repair of the facilities.

During 2011 a survey of the toilets was carried out estimating that it would cost £65,000 to upgrade the facilities which with an estimated 200,000 visitors a year to the Park is only 30p a visitor.

I’ll be asking the Borough Council to prioritise the Abington Park improvements in this years 2012 – 2013 budget utilising some of the millions of pounds of reserves they currently hold.

In answer to my question I think that overall Lady Wantage would be pleased that her bequest is valued so highly by the people of Northampton which raised another thought,

Shouldn’t the people demonstrate their thanks by erecting a monument or even a statue of Lady Wantage so the young people and many visitors to Abington Park will be reminded how lucky they are?