Visitor centre at heart of proposals to kickstart Delamont way ahead

Visitor centre at heart of proposals to kickstart Delamont way ahead

27 November 2019

A NEW visitor centre is among a list of exciting proposals designed to help with the regeneration of Delamont Country Park, near Killyleagh.

A series of proposals for the future were unveiled at a special public event at the country park last week which form an exciting new vision entitled ‘Window to Strangford Lough’.

Spread over three separate development phases — stretching over the next five years and beyond — the proposals are designed to copper-fasten Delamont’s position as a “standout location” where people come and interact with the waterway and embrace the stunning environment.

Work on proposals which feature in the blueprint is expected to start next year as part of the drive to maximise Delamont’s strategic location on the shores of the internationally acclaimed waterway.

Initial work includes transforming the way in which information on the 200-acre park is interpreted for visitors highlighting its wildlife, flora and fauna, park events and its links with Strangford Lough.

This work also aims to better communicate the history and heritage of the country park and increasing accessibility around the picturesque trail network to improve access to key features and locations.

The use of audio technology is also planned alongside the potential to expand the current adventure playground and caravan park. 

There are also plans to enhance the walled garden area and the park’s pond, with suggestions that community allotments could also be developed for the use of local people and Killyleagh Gardening Club.

Local politicians have welcomed the phased approach to development which includes maximising the dedicated viewing area over Strangford Lough via an enhanced platform and enhancing key natural and built heritage features including the Rath.

Sarah Noble — from Outdoor Recreation NI which has developed proposals on the way forward — explained that the park’s redevelopment has reached the current 

stage following detailed consultation with the public, community groups, other organisations and range of experts.

The plans for the future were presented to local politicians last month with residents and park users given the opportunity to view them last week.

“We are talking about a phased approach and while we have some concept drawings showing a visitor centre, this is not what the finished building will look like,” she explained. 

“What is on display are high level conceptual images of what we should be developing over the coming years.”

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is earmarking money within next year’s budget to begin work in Delamont with the local authority preparing to explore other possible funding opportunities to help the country park fulfil its full potential.

Sarah explained that during the public consultation, a range of ideas came forward, including a golf course.

She continued: “We have produced what we think is in keeping with the country park and something which is also sustainable, helping the local council meet its key objectives in terms of benefits for the local community and visitors.

“The main thing for us was how do we maximise the potential of this site as a resource for the community and its potential as a visitor attraction.”

Sarah explained that the public consultation at the start of the year on the future of the country park helped shape Outdoor Recreation NI’s thinking on the way forward.

“In addition to this consultation, we also utilised our knowledge of best practice at various sites across the UK and Ireland and further afield. We spend a lot of time visiting other sites and have brought what we know works best to Delamont,” she continued.

“The presence of Strangford Lough adjacent to Delamont is essential. This is what sets its location apart from other country parks and makes it unique and a standout facility.”

Sarah explained that some visitors to the country park do not venture as far as walking along the shore.

She added: “The concept is the ‘Window of Strangford Lough’ which we believe is very apt. We want visitors to engage with the lough and make the most of what Delamont has to offer. The waterway is stunning and there are few country parks better.”

Now that the public consultation has ended, Sarah said the focus is starting on phase one of the redevelopment project and to build on this, making the most of the country park’s resource and improving what it offers visitors.

The concepts of how the vision could be realised were shown for illustration purposes only at the -in event. After considering the masterplan, the council will seek to develop the projects into greater detail and seek to initiate implementation on a phased basis.