Wellingborough Council’s work to regenerate the town centre is continuing, as play equipment has been installed in Croyland Gardens.
The project to create the zoo-themed play area started at the beginning of the year and will be finished by the spring.
The play equipment is all made of natural material such as wood and stone, as public consultation on the project revealed that people were keen that it should complement the formal setting of the gardens. The play area will also feature wooden animal sculptures, and these should be in place by the end of February.
Cllr Graham Lawman, chairman of the development committee said: "The zoo theme for the play area has been chosen to reflect the heritage of the site. We consulted the public on the project and as a result of that we chose natural materials for the equipment and revised the design of the play area to appeal to the under 7s. We also changed the position of the play area following public feedback. The project is another step in our town centre's regeneration. We want to make visiting the town centre a great experience, and enhancing public spaces such as Croyland Gardens helps to do that."
Cllr Lawman adds: "Landscaping on the site has also started and should be finished this week. But it will need to remain fenced off as we have to wait at least four weeks for the turf to settle. So whilst the area is really taking shape now, we would ask people to wait until the fences are removed before trying out any of the play equipment."
The zoo theme was chosen to reflect the heritage of the site. The original zoo was situated in the gardens of Croyland Abbey and it was opened to the public on 13 June 1943. The zoo housed a private collection of exotic animals, including monkeys, lions, panthers, a baby elephant and a giant tortoise amongst others. Behind the Horseshoe pub there was a penguin pool. The lion was taken to the cinema, the local park and generally treated like a pet.
The zoo expanded during the 50s, and other species were imported, however the RSPCA criticised the poor conditions that the animals were kept in. Matters came to a head when a man broke into the zoo and was mauled by a leopard, losing part of his arm. The zoo closed in 1970 and became the borough council offices and Swansgate shopping centre.
The work in Croyland Gardens has been funded by money the council received from the government to enhance Wellingborough's public spaces.