Jubilee Park – Kirkby Stephen

To celebrate National Tree Week, Kirkby Stephen took their walk group to the town’s Jubilee Park. The park today is a mature woodland but in the 19th century, it was the future vision of some Kirkby Stephen residents.
When developing the railway yard in 1856, land was enclosed and because this was once common land, it was decided to set aside areas for residents’ recreation. The allotments were provided but the park had no initial purpose. It was decided eventually to develop the area to mark the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887. A bandstand and boating lake were added with a rockery and steps up to the higher level.
We have Andrew MacKereth, the well-respected Warden of the Workhouse, to thank for laying out the planting and his “labour of love”, so many years ago as he planted the trees. See the illustration above with the original entrance and planting.
Today, there is a tranquil mature wood of beech and other varieties of trees as chosen by Mr. MacKereth and other self-seeded trees and saplings with a meadow of wildflowers including orchids. The clay bottom pond no longer holds much water but has become a haven for wildlife and for damp loving wildflowers. A recent survey has recorded some rare plants.
The award-winning summerhouse designed by Elaine Rigby and built by G. Middleton Ltd. has replaced the ruinous octagonal bandstand. This unusual design, built of stone and oak, is a beautiful restful place to sit admiring the spectacular views over Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang Edge.
There is a clearing in front of the summerhouse, towards the pond, that has been left to view dark skies which has become a popular activity in the winter months when the nights are longer. Kirkby Stephen Walkers are Welcome have just produced a dark skies leaflet to guide you.
The wood always feels secluded but in autumn after the trees have given their colourful display, there is a clear view of Kirkby Stephen below over the railway bridge. Look out for conkers and beech nuts on the woodland floor.
Just as the trustees envisaged this park over 100 years ago, 500 native trees were planted at Edensyde, the other end of the town in 2010 for future residents to enjoy. These trees are thriving with a few losses to Ash Dieback. How many will be inspired to create new woodlands this year?

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