Hawick’s Wilton Lodge Park has hit the gold standard for outdoor spaces after being awarded Green Flag status by Keep Scotland Beautiful.
The 43-hectare park is the first in the Borders and only the second in the south of Scotland to land such an award.
The scheme’s judges were persuaded to hand out that plaudit after seeing the work undertaken to improve the park as part of a £3.64m regeneration project due for completion this summer.
Paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Borders Council, the project has seen new facilities provided including a £300,000 playpark and extra footbridge over the River Teviot, as well as a controversial cafe alongside it.
Thanks to funding of £100,000 from transport charity Sustrans, improvements have also been made to footpaths, lighting and signage in the park.
Tree-planting and improvements to the park’s main entrance, common riding ceremonial area and Gilbert Davidson fountain are also part of the regeneration project, as is the installation of 27 interpretation boards to help visitors find their way around.
Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, said: “This award is a huge honour for Hawick and the Scottish Borders, being the very first park or green space in our region to receive Green Flag status.
“The award has recognised the stunning landscape of the park and the wide variety of new facilities provided through the regeneration project funded by the council and its various partners.”
In a joint statement, Hawick councillors Stuart Marshall, Watson McAteer, David Paterson, Clair Ramage, Neil Richards and George Turnbull added: “The people of Hawick are rightly proud of Wilton Lodge Park, and this award confirms its position as one of the finest parks in the south of Scotland.
“The Green Flag award recognises the hard work of the Friends of Wilton Lodge Park, various volunteers, the project team and the council’s neighbourhoods team to make the regeneration of the park a success.
“Wilton Lodge Park already welcomes thousands of visitors each year, but we believe its new Green Flag status will encourage even more people to come to this fantastic park, to Hawick and to the Scottish Borders.”
Pete Leonard, operations director at Keep Scotland Beautiful, given the job of administering the scheme north of the border by the UK Government’s ministry of housing, communities and local government, said: “We’re delighted to award Wilton Lodge Park Green Flag status.
“It is great to see a newly-regenerated site added to the list of awarded parks.
“We are very proud of all Scotland’s Green Flag award parks, and this year we have had a number of new parks receive their Green Flag.
“This is clearly recognition for everyone’s efforts in helping to make their local open space a greener, cleaner and healthier place to live, work and play.”