Neglected town centre beauty spot is given new lease of life

The new mural at St Katherine's Gardens, photographed by Stu Vincent

A forgotten green space in Northampton town centre that had become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour has gone from 'grey to gorgeous' thanks to a lottery-funded volunteer project staged as part of The Big Help Out to mark the King's Coronation weekend.

As a result of the project, led by Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District and Northampton Town Council, St Katherine's Gardens has been transformed into an urban green space where shoppers and town centre workers can enjoy the summer sunshine.

Northampton Town Centre BID secured £10,000 of Lottery funding to help pay for the work, with multiple partners including groundworks firm Danaher and Walsh, landscapers idverde, builders merchants Travis Perkins, Zone Developments and Stepnells (the developers behind the ongoing Market Square works) donating their time and resources to help with the project.

On Monday, 8 May, a collaboration of volunteers from Northampton Town Council, the Royal British Legion, University of Northampton, Northampton College and local businesses joined forces to spruce up the area and clear litter as part of The Big Help Out – a national day of volunteering organised by The Together Coalition to mark the Coronation of King Charles III.

Mark Mullen, operations manager of Northampton Town Centre BID, said: "This has been a real community effort, with multiple partners coming together to produce something truly special for the town. It's unrecognisable from just a few weeks ago. It's bright, cheerful and you can see the smiles on peoples' faces as they walk through. It's a lovely place to be."

St Katherine's Gardens is a green space in the centre of Northampton that was once the site of the 19th century church of St Katherine. It provides a walkway between the bus station and Horsemarket, and is neighboured by businesses on College Street, St Katherine's Street and King Street.

Areas will now be set aside for 'No Mow May' to encourage wildlife back into St Katherine's Gardens while benches and bins have been repurposed and upcycled following their removal from the Market Square. Railings and gates have been freshly painted while there are sections dedicated to Northampton Town Council's Bloom campaign and the Climate Change Forum.

Cllr Andrew Stevens, Chair of The Environmental Services Committee at Northampton Town Council said: "We're proud to be working with partners to improve and enhance community spaces in Northampton town centre. This work really has given St Katherine's Gardens a new lease of life and I'd like to thank all those who gave their time to support this wonderful transformation."

The theme for the space is influenced by the King's passion for sustainability, biodiversity and the natural world. Volunteers have planted sustainable, perennial planters and a wild flower and grass bed, established flower beds have been pruned to encourage the growth of existing wild flowers and the whole site has given a bright and clean new look, with the addition of a stunning floral wellbeing mural, designed by Sarah Hodgkins and painted by college and university students.

Mark Bradshaw, curriculum manager for construction at Northampton College, said: "As the college in the community we are always keen to support projects such as this and it has been an excellent opportunity for our students to showcase their skills and create something very special for the town. We're looking forward to continuing the relationship and adding to the look and feel of St Katherine's Gardens in the months to come."

The area now provides a pleasant outlook for guests staying at the neighbouring Park Inn, whose staff also volunteer their time to lend a hand.

Chris Langsford, sales manager at the Park Inn, said: "The transformation has been incredible. It's gone from grey to gorgeous in a matter of days and is going to be a fantastic first impression of the town for our guests opening their curtains in the morning."

Other highlights in the new-look gardens include poetry-based artwork by James McInerney that forms the basis of a trail for this year's Northampton in Bloom campaign.

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Posted: Wed, 10 May 2023 11:00 by NTC News

Tags: Community, News