Aden Country Park in Mintlaw has always been regarded as the jewel in Aberdeenshire’s tourism crown, with thousands of people passing through its gates every year.
Popular with dog walkers, theatre-goers, historians, archaeologists, sun worshippers, glampers, caravanners and young and old alike, Aden Park is striving to evolve in a bid to attract an even larger slice of the tourism pie.
Confirmation last month that the park has been awarded more than £1 million by The National Lottery, as part of its Parks for People programme, will allow it to do just that.
The funding will support the major restoration and redevelopment of both Aden’s historic buildings and landscape, along with the creation of a new play area, improvements to park accessibility and signage, as well as supporting a biodiversity programme.
The project’s ambition is to enhance, promote and conserve Aden’s rich cultural, architectural, archaeological and natural heritage, creating a sustainable, high-quality visitor destination in rural Aberdeenshire for present and future generations.
In addition, it is hoped the investment will encourage as many people as possible to get involved with the heritage of Aden Country Park through opportunities for volunteering, community participation, audience development, interpretation, training and learning.
The total grant awarded is for £1.25 million but it is expected that the total project cost will be in the region of £2.13 million, with the rest of the funds coming from other grants, non-cash contributions, volunteer time, developer obligations and investment from Aberdeenshire Council.
Work is due to begin at the end of this year and is expected to take around five years to complete.
The main strands of the proposed project, which will be done in phases, include:
n A range of improvements to visitor facilities, including improved access, upgraded courtyard area, path works, the opening up of the ground floor of the Coach House to develop an interactive interpretation, education and activity area, along with the creation of wildlife and farming heritage trails;
n Improvements to the biodiversity of habitats for plants and wildlife including works to the Mill Pond, new planting and woodland management;
n The development of environmental, archaeological and heritage-related volunteer and learning opportunities;
n A new adventure play area aimed at children of all ages and abilities;
n The creation of outdoor learning classrooms with a new pond-dipping platform, wildlife shelter and nature trails;
n The uncovering, recording and interpretation of a series of significant archaeological sites including a Bronze Age settlement, lost Keith Tower, Mansion House, Stone Circle and World War One trenches;
n Formal learning programmes and resources developed for schools to complement the curriculum for excellence;
n The stabilisation of the Gardener’s Cottage and the repurposing of Grieve’s House to create new enterprises and new income sources in the future;
n The conservation of Aden’s designed landscape, including the restoration of structures such as the three historic lodges, features and planting along with the stabilisation of at risk buildings;
n The development of a wide range of interpretation eg interpretation centre, smartphone app, films, website, leaflets and panels, to encourage visitors to engage with Aden’s natural, built, cultural and archaeological heritage;
n And the delivery of a wide range of heritage-related events and activities.
Councillor Norman Smith, chairman of the Buchan area committee, was delighted to hear the grant had been successful.
“Aden is a wonderful asset, not only to the communities of Mintlaw, Peterhead and the Buchan area but to the rest of Aberdeenshire,” he said.
“It is a significant attraction which will be made even better with the news of this National Lottery funding. I would like to give my thanks to the Buchan Development Partnership, and Friends of Aden for their work to secure this funding.”
Lucy Cascot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “We are delighted to be able to protect this precious green space.”