Milton Creek Country Park will be a haven for wildlife out of wasteland
SET in 128 acres, Milton Creek Country Park stretches from the shore of the creek, past Asda and Milton Regis's Holy Trinity Church, to the paper mill and fishing lakes in Kemsley.
When it opens in March, the main gateway will be off Green Porch Close, with smaller entrances leading from Gas Road and the Northern Relief Road, currently being built to the north-east of the park.
Playing a round: From left, clerk of works Liam Wooltorton, project manager Phoebe Adefeso and Stephen Flynn inside one of the circular play areas SBIS150910Park-22
Lake lookout: Wooden walkways and benches will allow visitors to enjoy the park SBIS150910Park-5
Sporting angle: Kemsley's fishing lakes fall within the park's boundaries SBIS150910Park-12
Glimpse the future: An artist's impression of how Milton Creek Country Park will look when it's finished
Gaining perspective: Looking towards the park's main entrance and Holy Trinity Church, Milton Regis SBSE150910Park-1
Grass, shrubs, wildflowers and young trees have grown throughout the former landfill site, and small brick walls and mounds of earth dotted around the area show where future attractions will go.
A resurfaced footpath, part of it running along the Saxon Shore Way, will link the main section of the park with the area next to Milton Creek.
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Brick circles and a hill with concrete blocks jutting out of it are being transformed into themed play areas for youngsters.
Landscape architect Stephen Flynn, of Sheils Flynn, explained: "The 'sandscape' area for toddlers will have slides, a bridge and a large seat for parents. The 'marshland' space, primarily for older children, will feature a 7m space-net, reminiscent of the rigging on barges that travelled on the creek. The hill will be a place where teenagers can sit."
A mound of earth piled next to a winding footpath is destined to become an amphitheatre, which performing arts groups, musicians, artists and community groups will be able to hold events in. For visitors of all ages, as well as visiting wildlife, two ponds and a lake are being created, with wooden walkways and benches nearby.
Some trees have already been planted in the woodland area – funded by the Forestry Commission – and others, along with a variety of plants and flowers, have been purchased and will be added this autumn.
Project manager Phoebe Adefeso described the country park as "wildlife-sensitive", adding: "One of our objectives is that the park's not just for people, it's for nature."
Fishing lakes fall within the park's boundaries, and the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway's Kemsley Down station is within easy walking distance.
Phoebe said residents were looking forward to being able to use the park, and added that four open days held to demonstrate its progress had been well attended.
She said: "When we first started, some people didn't understand what we were doing. But when they saw something actually happening they were very happy and positive.
"The only complaint we had was when we had to close a public footpath off to do some work and dog walkers couldn't use it. But we opened it up and people were happy."
Creating the park has cost £2.25 million – £2 million of which was Thames Gateway cash awarded via the Homes and Communities Agency. The rest was donated by Kent County Council.
Depending on the outcome of the government's spending review next month, Swale Council may be able to apply for more funding that will allow the park to be extended along the coast towards Sheppey.