on September 14, 2009
As if having the Lake District, South West Scottish Coast and Hadrian's Wall Country all within a stones throw away isn't lucky enough for us here in Carlisle, we also have 2 spectacular parks in the city. One, Bitts Park, sits in the city centre on the banks of the river Eden, while the other hides on the outskirts of a council estate. Hammond's Pond can be found on the South side of the city, just past the Upperby estate and opposite Carlisle race course. It really is quite surprisingly beautiful and scenic, with plenty of facilities, and for various reasons the one I favour most. 100 years ago, the site which Hammond's Pond now sits, was a brick pit. The clay was shovelled out to make bricks and over time a lake naturally formed. A local market gardener, Archie Hammond, saw the potential of the site and in 1923 ' Pleasureland' was opened to the public. Back then local people could enjoy a range of activities including pleasure boats, tennis courts, animal enclosures and on a Saturday night, an open air wooden dancefloor! Throughout the years the park changed hands and eventually came to the city council. In 1949 a miniature railway was added by the Carlisle and District Model Engineers Society, and still runs today. Through the 1980's and 90's the park sadly fell into severe decline. It became neglected and associated as a hang out for alcoholics and drugs users. The pond became toxic and vandalism was rife. It certainly wasn't somewhere I would have gone back then. Thankfully though in 1998 the park was redeveloped thanks to a Parks For People Grant from the Lottery. In 2008 Hammond's Pond was awarded a green flag award. It's now absolutly beautiful!The thing I like the very best about Hammond's Pond is that it's obvious that very detailed thought has gone into making this park a peoples park, while still remaining an extremely natural and beautiful place. The pond itself is quite large, though whichever end you approach it from it at first appears smaller. A large man made island in the middle separates the water with two pretty bridges either side allowing the water to flow underneath. The area surrounding the pond is naturally wild and green with lots of trees. It's pretty at anytime of year, however I particularly like it in Autumn (as seen in the picture at the top of the page). With large trees overhanging each other it has a woodland feel to it and is a lovely stroll for walkers and dog owners. At a very leisurely pace it could take you up to 45 minutes to walk the entire circumference. The terrain is flat and only very slightly pebbly, so is suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs and those who require a more gentle walk. The main attraction of the pond though are the beautiful swans and ducks who live there now. My daughter loves talking bread to feed them, and they will come really close to be fed. There are several wooden platforms around the pond which are perfect spots for duck feeding. Unfortunately The wooden dance floor wasn't really practical for the wet Cumbrian weather, and is sadly no more, and neither are the Animal Enclosures - but there is still plenty to do, old and new. During the summer months you can hire small wooden rowing boats, for a small charge. I have to be honest and admit to being terrified of getting into small boats like this so I've never took part, although my ex-husband and son had a few enjoyable jaunts on the pond. As well as the boats, the miniature railway still remains on the Island, and this I do like. It's a very small gauge railway and while older children will be unimpressed, small children (and me) will enjoy a trip around it for 50p. Its so small you have to straddle the train rather than get in a carriage, and I would recommend parents do supervise small children in case they decide to jump off mid way round the track. The children's play area has just undergone another face lift and is fantastic. It has a mix of traditional wooden climbing frames, tower and slides and ultra modern equipment. I like this play area, as having 2 children with an 8 year gap I find it caters to both. My daughter particularly likes the new take on a roundabout, which has 4 little peddle bikes, while my son is braver and climbs the huge net web (though I can't look) The park also has 2 basketball courts, junior and full size football pitches and a really cool bike track with hills and turns. There are plenty of grassed areas for ball games or picnics, and tables and benches are dotted around the park. I'm pleased to confirm to anyone who may have been concerned, that the Animal enclosures disappeared decades, long before the decline and subsequent regeneration of the park. There is still an aviary and dovecote which are my least favourite part of the park. The aviary houses lots of tropical looking birds, which I have no idea what breed they are...canaries, small parrots, love birds? It's little more than a converted shed, looks very small and there's not a lot going on in there for the birds. The cage is also facing away from the sun, with a brick wall to the back and looks very dark and depressing. There is absolutely no information about the birds so I have no idea what they are or why they are here, it's quite possible they could be rescue birds. I just hate seeing birds in cages and it doesn't look particularly pleasant. The doves are free to leave their cage at any time, however it still is a bleak looking place. Hammond's Pond has really good facilities for a public park in my opinion. The cafe has a seating area indoors and out and serves hot and cold drinks, sweets and tray bakes, branded ice lollies and delicious home made ice creams in a huge range of flavours. The prices are very reasonable, a large cup of coffee costing just 90p and home made ice creams £1. Even the branded lollies are very cheap, today my daughter had her favourite ice age lolly, which usually costs around 80p, here it was just 50p. The indoor seating area is nothing fancy, but it's clean and well maintained and during the winter months kept lovely and warm! The cafe opens between midday and 4pm at weekends and during school holidays. The park also has excellent toilet facilities, with toilets both inside the cafe, and ones that are accessed from outside meaning no matter when you visit you won't be caught short. Usually toilets in these places are terrible, but these are very clean and well maintained and always have plenty of loo paper. There is also disabled toilet facilities and baby changing rooms. I hadn't really considered how lucky we are to have such brilliant park facilities here in Carlisle until my daughter and I were at Hammond's pond today. It's so beautiful and serene here, especially as the weather was so fine. Even if the adventure playground and boat trips aren't your scene, everyone can appreciate the beautiful scenery and stunning wildlife as they stroll around the pond. I don't think it matters how many times you see Swans, they still remain fascinatingly beautiful and being able to see them so close up is always a delight to young and old. You can definitely feel the thought that that has gone into providing a park for all the local people and visitors. What I find surprising is that the park is rarely busy. This is great for me, as it's always peaceful and quiet although I do think it's a shame that more people aren't appreciating the park. There's a strong park ranger presence ensuring the park is a safe and lovely place to visit. The only negative I have in regards to this park is the aviary. Granted my daughter likes to see the birds, however I feel a little uncomfortable that they aren't in the best accommodation they could be. I'd like to see some information on the birds, as I do have a feeling they are rescued birds, and would like to see the aviary and dovecote updated. The park can be accessed by foot from either Blackwell Road, Buchannan Road, Henderson Road or Scalegate Road, and vehicle access and parking can be found at Blackwell Road or Buchannan Road and is completely free! The park is open daily from 8.30 am till dusk every day, with the cafe opening at 12.00-16.00 weekends and school holidays and the miniture railway 14.00-16.00 Sundays only (Easter-mid-October) Admission to Hammond's Pond is completely free, with just small charges for a couple of the activities on offer.
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