AMBITIOUS plans to improve the environment at Abergavenny’s historic Bailey Park have been announced by the Town Council.

The news that thousands of pounds will be spent on two projects has been welcomed by supporters and volunteers who help care for the park.

The Town Council has found the money because when it set the budget for this year it did not envisage that all the festivals it sponsors and events it organises would not be going ahead. It also didn’t anticipate that other planned expenditure would be delayed or cancelled.

As a result the Town Council has decided it can reallocate some of its budget to benefit the town and improve the facilities available locally.

During lockdown, local greenspaces have become so important and this includes the historic Bailey Park developed by Ironmaster Crawshay Bailey Junior for the town.

With the approval of Monmouthshire County Council two projects in Bailey Park have been identified; to resurface the hard courts area and to restore the historic main gates.

Cllr Tony Konieczny, Mayor of Abergavenny told the Chronicle: “Bailey Park is a wonderful park in the centre of town and I’m so pleased that this investment by the Town Council will breathe new life into the recreational facilities in the park and give young people in particular a first class area on which to play sports.

‘‘I’m also excited about the long overdue restoration of the main gates and I would like to thank Abergavenny Rotary, Abergavenny Civic Society and Friends of Bailey Park for their contributions which has made this possible.

‘‘When restored and painted black and gold, these gates will look absolutely fantastic when they are brought back to Abergavenny in early 2021.”

The former netball courts near the Pavilion will be resurfaced at an estimated cost of £35,000.

This area is in a dreadful state and community groups such as Abergavenny Rhinos Athletics Club have been asking for a new surface for many years.

With a new surface, this multi-use area will be marked out for different sports including a three lane athletics track.

The area will not be fenced or locked and will be fully accessible so all ages can turn up with their equipment and play their chosen sport.

Richard O’Connor from Abergavenny Rhinos Athletics Club said: “This is excellent news for the further development of the junior athletics club, who provide track and field training and the fundamental movement skills required as a foundation for all sports, and for improving the attractiveness of our park. But also, in supporting our community “put down and play” recreational activities, such as netball, handball, volley ball, table tennis and much more! This facility can also act as a warm up and exercise area and meeting point for extended community activities like hiking, running and walking. Recreational sport is fast becoming recognised as an inexpensive way for providing intergenerational social and health benefits, and we are thankful to our progressive Town Council for this investment.”

The main gates and ornate railings are an important part of Abergavenny’s heritage and are Grade II listed. Over the last century, the gates have been restored but not for many decades so sadly, the main ornate gates have deteriorated and are now in desperate need of repair. There are a lot of missing details such as floral medallions and finials that will need recasting before the gates can be stripped down and repainted.

Abergavenny Town Council in partnership with Monmouthshire County Council, Abergavenny Rotary, Abergavenny & District Civic Society, Abergavenny Local History Society and Friends of Bailey Park came together in 2019 to secure the necessary funding to enable the gates and the associated railings to be repaired. All these organisations worked together on a Heritage Fund application but at the time the application was submitted the relevant funding programme was suspended due to the pandemic and will not reopen until sometime in 2021.

Mindful of the state of the gates and the suspension of the Lottery funding, Abergavenny Town Council agreed to allocate funding to enable the gates and associated decorative railings to be repaired in this financial year. Abergavenny Rotary, Friends of Bailey Park and Abergavenny Civic Society will jointly be contributing £9000 and MCC will be undertaking the necessary tree works in this area. The cost of this restoration work is just short of £40,000. The work will be undertaken by a Brecon based company whose work is mainly focussed on historic gates and railings in London. The gates will be removed and transported to their workshop for restoration and the decorative railings will also be removed in sections and restored at the workshop. By taking them off site, the painted finish will be better as they can be painted indoors rather than left to the vagaries of a Welsh winter.

The remainder of the railings and gates, of which there is a lot, will need repainting at some point in the future but budgets do not allow this to happen at this time. The priority has been the main gates which will look fantastic when professionally restored and will complement other investment in this well used and much-loved park.

Shirley Barnfield, Chair of Friends of Bailey Park said “This is very good news and what a difference this is going to make to the park and to the community. The future of the park will be safe and Abergavenny can be proud again of Bailey Park.”