What next for Durlston after pleasure grounds success?

The team who made the restoration of the pleasure grounds at Durlston Country Park in Swanage possible, gathered to mark the end of the highly successful four year project and to wonder what next they would like to tackle.

Costing a million pounds, the paths and landscape have now been saved from disrepair, restoring Victorian businessman George Burt’s original vision for his pleasure grounds within the country park.

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Team of people at Durlston Pleasure Gardens project celebration

The team who all contributed in some way to make the pleasure grounds project happen

Work began in 2018

Following a successful grant application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, work began in 2018 to strip back the overgrown ivy, rebuild 1,075 metres of dry stone walls and to create wide accessible paths from which to admire the breathtaking sea views.

Fortunately, a lot of the hard landscaping to improve the main path which runs parallel to the coastline had been completed prior to the Covid pandemic.

A digger improves a path at Durlston country park
Durlston country park

Bringing the diggers in

New paths at Durlston Country park
Durlston Country park

Before and after

Mammoth lockdown project

However much of the work turned into a mammoth lockdown project for the rangers and volunteers, when the easing of restrictions allowed them to work outdoors.

The country park owned by Dorset Council also proved a hugely popular place for residents to take their daily exercise, inspiring many to join up as volunteers to help complete the project.

The impressive result includes new places to sit and admire the view, a new woodland play park enjoyed by children and big kids alike, wheelchair and buggy friendly paths, a shed that acts as a base for everyone to meet up, and the restoration of lots of quirky Victorian features.

Volunteers hard at work repairing the dry stone walls

Volunteers at Durlston Pleasure Gardens project celebration

Some of the volunteers who contributed more than 27,000 hours of their time to help complete the project

Volunteers: “The lifeblood of Durlston”

Speaking at an event on Friday 14th October 2022 to thank many of those who helped make it all possible, the project leader Ali Tuckey said:

“Volunteers have always been the lifeblood of Durlston and without you this project just wouldn’t have happened and it’s brilliant that we’ve attracted even more volunteers to join us. I’m so proud to be part of this project.

“Also the Durlston ranger team has been amazing – Katie has been an absolute rock.”

Durlston Pleasure Gardens project celebration

Project leader Ali Tuckey thanked all those who helped

Sybil Fine King at Durlston Pleasure Gardens project celebration

At the event, the High Sheriff of Dorset and a director of The Fine Foundation Sibyl Fine King praised the team for being so welcoming and inclusive to all

Spur on the next project

The pleasure grounds project was a natural progression following the successful completion in 2011 of the restoration of Durlston Castle, George Burt’s Victorian folly which now houses the gift shop, restaurant and the Fine Foundation Gallery.

It’s now hoped that, likewise, the pleasure gardens project will spur on the rejuvenation of other parts of the extensive country park grounds.

Ben the ranger at Durlston Pleasure Gardens project celebration
Ali Tuckey at Durlston Pleasure Gardens project celebration

Guests were given a tour of the grounds

“Where is it all going to go next?”

Ali said:

“Where is it all going to go next? We’re certainly not going to rest on our laurels – there are lots of ideas.

“I can’t say too much, but we do have plans. I think the pleasure grounds project has set us up in the right direction for the next 10 to 20 years.

“With a climate emergency, it can’t just be about what we are doing – we need to work with our neighbouring landowners like the National Trust and the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Countryside management has to be across the wider area of Purbeck.

“We’d also like to hear what others want for Durlston – any good ideas, please let us know. There’s certainly still plenty to do!

New wide accessible paths

Egyptian bench at Durlston Country Park

The carefully restored Egyptian seat

The shed at Durlston Country Park

The Shed which opens its doors to all

Further information

  • More about Durlston Country Park is on its website

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