Help create wish list to improve Moor Park in Preston

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Calls to put a spring in the step of Moor Park are gathering pace as Preston residents add their ideas to a wish list to improve the historic green space.

At least 200 people turned up to stargaze at the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory at the park in December, eager to look through a Victorian telescope.

Moor Park play area

Moor Park play area

But the Thomas Cooke refractor telescope, the installation of which coincided with the 1927 solar eclipse drawing thousands of people to the park at the time, is now defunct.

Astronomers who host open nights at the observatory, which in its heyday attracted visitors from around the country, want to see it brought back into use as “it enthuses people to observe the night sky”.

Refurbishing it is one of the main priorities of park directors at Preston City Council if - and it is a big if - pots for Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) become available to bid for.

Residents of the city are being asked to pool their ideas in an online consultation in order to give bosses at the authority a steer on what aspects of Moor Park they think should be given a facelift.

Moor Park play area

Moor Park play area

READ MORE: Find out more about Moor Park's history

Head of parks at Preston City Council (PCC), Mark Taylor says that he is waiting to hear if the HLF will reopen its funding pot for parks and, if so, how much money might become available.

“The HLF completely removed its parks funding scheme last year,” said Mark. “It was dropped pending consultation.

“We are currently waiting to see what the HLF say about what funding streams will be available for parks.

Moor Park play area

Moor Park play area

“If there is funding available for parks then we will have a consultation as a council asking do we want to apply.

“We can’t afford to do it ourselves.

“We’ve got grand plans for Moor Park but this consultation is really asking what people would like if we can go forward.

“It gives us a steer on what people want to see and if our ideas are any good so we are making sure that what we want to do is right if the HLF comes back and says there’s money.”

Moor Park

Moor Park

Coun Brian Rollo, cabinet member for the Environment at PCC, said: “Consultation plays a significant role in our ongoing development of Moor Park – it is important that we fully understand what our park users want and need from the park.

“This particular consultation follows from our last significant investment (in 2012) into Moor Park of £2.35m, with £1.72m of Heritage Lottery Funding and is a very early stage opportunity for us to understand what the public wants us to do next.”

Meanwhile, Mark says he is expecting to hear about the outcome of the parks funding pot early this year.

It means that while his department at PCC is asking people to contribute to the Moor Park wish list, whether the council can apply for funding in the first place is very much still “up in the air”.

Assuming that the HLF keeps its grant for parks Mark says another priority, as well as the observatory, is to improve the area around the Serpentine pond.

“The pond is crying out for development,” he said. “We didn’t do it in the first place because it’s such a big project on its own.

The Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory in Moor Park

The Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory in Moor Park

“That is currently on the list if we were able to do stage two. Whatever we would do it would be sympathetic to the original design.”

His commitment is backed by David Branney, 57, of Willowbridge Plants, who remembers bringing his now adult daughter to the park when she was three years old.

He said: “It’s a great park. There a lot of things you could do with it.

“If they did the duck pond up that would be good, it’s a disgrace. Some of the trees have fallen down. It’s an eyesore when you walk past that bit.”

Clare Butler, 48, takes her whippet, Fin, to Moor Park at least twice a day but while she thinks something needs to be done about the duck pond, she doesn’t agree that it should be spruced up.

She said: “The thing that I think needs doing the most is the duck pond. It needs filling in, it’s just an attraction for vermin and rubbish.

“Teenagers hanging about there throw glass about. People say they don’t feed the ducks but they do.

“I don’t understand why they want to do it up. I just think it needs to go.”

To take part in the Moor Parksurvey go to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MoorPark2018-19

Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory

In 1927 the Observatory was opened in the north-west corner of the park and dedicated to Jeremiah Horrocks, who has been described as the ‘Father of British Astronomy’.

The Observatory is owned by University of Central Lancashire and houses an eight-inch Thomas Cooke refractor telescope which is currently used and operated by Preston and District Astronomical Society (PADAS).

On June 29, 1927 a Total Eclipse was witnessed with approximately 30,000 people gathering in the park to the newly opened Observatory. The telescope was built by Thomas Cooke in 1867.

Graham McLoughlin, secretary of Preston and District Astronomical Society said: “If they are able to get access to extra funding the last bit of work now to is to make the dome operable.

“Last month we had 200 people visit for an open evening even though it was raining.

“The Thomas Cooke refractor telescope is quite rare, there’s not many in the country.

“In its day it was the Rolls Royce of telescopes but now it’s seen as museum piece.

“It’s a great resource and it enthuses people to observe the night sky.

“It would be fantastic to bring it back into use for the people of Preston.”

Members of the Preston and District Astronomical Society host an open day at the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory in Moor Park

Members of the Preston and District Astronomical Society host an open day at the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory in Moor Park

Members of the Preston and District Astronomical Society host an open day at the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory in Moor Park

Members of the Preston and District Astronomical Society host an open day at the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory in Moor Park