In Great Yarmouth, England, the historic Venetian Waterways re-opened on August 20, 2019, following a year of major restoration. The Boating Lake and the Island Café are both back in use for the first time in about a decade.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council, working with Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust and dedicated volunteers, has led an ongoing £2.7 million restoration of the unique Grade II-listed seafront park and tourist attraction, supported by The National Lottery, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Government.
Chris Starkie, Chief Executive of New Anglia LEP, said “I’m delighted to see the restored Venetian Waterways open for locals and visitors to enjoy. Tourism and the visitor economy is one of our region’s key assets so it is important that we invest in projects like this which create new jobs, redevelop seafront sites and offer a fun day out for families.”
First opened in 1928, the park was commissioned by the council as an employment relief program after the First World War. It was hugely popular with generations of holidaymakers until it declined in the latter 20th century, leading to the loss of historic features and planting in the Waterways, and the draining of the Boating Lake in 2014.
Since restoration started in June 2018, the project has seen the Boating Lake and Island Café faithfully refurbished, the Venetian bridges and thatched weather shelters restored, and volunteers working alongside the new Waterways gardeners to reinstate the original beautiful and bold planting scheme, which was praised at the time by the RHS.
Helen Wilson, Committee Member, England: Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, explained “We all benefit from spending time outside in the fresh air, and the people of Great Yarmouth are very lucky to be able to enjoy that in the nationally unique landscape of the Venetian Waterways. National Lottery players’ money will ensure this seaside park will have a wonderful future, and it is fantastic to see the end result of all the hard work that has gone into regenerating this beautiful green space.”
Major conservation works have included repair of seven bridges, rethatching of four historic structures, planting of 19,500 perennials, shrubs and trees, and positioning more than 500 tonnes of rock and stone. In addition, the concrete-lined Boating Lake basin has been repaired and re-filled with 3,600 cubic metres of water via a dedicated borehole.
The restoration was funded by a £1.7 million National Lottery grant awarded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, plus further funding from the borough council, New Anglia LEP and the Government. In addition, volunteers have so far contributed 2,000 hours, with the community continuing the restoration over the coming years.
Cllr Graham Plant, chairman of the economic development committee, said “The Waterways has regained its magical sparkle thanks to everyone involved and it will improve further still as the restoration continues, the plants mature and the Boating Lake and Island Café come alive again with visitors.”
“At 91 years old, it remains one of our most beloved and unique community facilities, tourist attractions and heritage assets – a park that’s by the public, for the public, in its construction, usage and now its restoration. It has been totally transformed, winning a Green Flag Award, and that’s credit to our fabulous funders, dedicated staff and volunteers,” he added.
“As part of our wider regeneration of the seafront, this restoration contributes to a lasting legacy for the borough and the people involved, saving our cultural heritage for future generations, supporting the local economy, boosting civic pride and providing people with opportunities to improve skills and access further training or employment,” Plant concluded.
Photos courtesy of the Great Yarmouth Borough Council.