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Visit for the View
Wharton Park (Durham)
Member Name: noodlesandwich
Wharton Park (Durham)
Date: 28/06/11, updated on 18/09/11 (116 review reads)
Advantages: Great Views, good childrens play area
Disadvantages: vandalism, some areas need attention
Like much of Durham, Wharton Park is atop a hill. It's situated just outside the city centre with entrances on foot via North Road and behind the train station. To get there by car from Durham city centre you would head out from Milburngate and go under the railway bridge up Framwellgate Peth, (A691), this entrance is on the other side of the road from the DLI museum. There's a limited hours free car park which sits between the children's play area and a picnic area. There's usually an ice cream van parked up here in the Summer months.
It's not a very big park, but it's well situated and has a few things to do and see. There are fantastic views of the city. The grade 2 listed 'Battery,' a castle style walkway, was built by the Wharton family in 1858 as a viewing point for the cathedral and ends in a turret which looks out over Durham - the real castle, the cathedral and the viaduct. As the park sits above the neighbouring train station, close enough to hear the tannoy announcements, you can look down from here and watch as the trains enter and leave Durham. My daughter likes to go through 'the secret passageway', (an arch), under here which leads down to a landscaped area, paths wind downhill towards a putting green and exit, or back up to the ball courts and play park. There's a small circuit for children's electric cars which are available in the summer, not sure of the prices for these, they don't seem to get a lot of use, but at least they're still running. I'm not so sure the putting green is still in use as it often seems to be frequented by people using it for other purposes.
It seems there are several things around Wharton Park that 'used to be' something. There's a frame for what was once a Victorian style conservatory, (Dooyoo's photo shows how it used to look), a plaque remains from a decommissioned statue, (I preferred it when it was the mysterious headless 'Albert the Good'). What used to be a bandstand is now just somewhere to kick a ball about, there are a few hard surfaces that were once marked as tennis or other courts. There is a functional net/basketball court. Most of this area on the North Road side could do with some attention.
The main attraction for a certain member of our family is the children's play area which is quite small but well packed with, amongst other items; swings for young and older children, two roundabouts, two slides, a seesaw and a few of those boingy sit-on things. It's nothing special as play parks go, but it's in good repair and is sufficient to keep little ones happy. It's a steep climb from the North Rd entrance up to the play area, very tiring in hot weather, but you can choose to take the long way around rather than heading straight up the steps.
Opposite the play area are a few picnic benches and a stone sculpture. Unfortunately Hamish Horsley's 'The Way' was damaged by vandals in April this year. It had been installed in 2004 to mark the cathedral's 1,000 year celebrations, as to whether there are funds available for it be restored, time will tell. There were some other acts of vandalism at the same time, such a shame that a few louts manage to ruin the enjoyment of ordinary visitors to the park.
There's a wooded area with a healthy grey squirrel population, we always spot a squirrel or two when we visit. Benches look out over flower beds down toward the train station. There are some lovely spots for a picnic, lots of seating, some in sheltered areas which give the illusion of seclusion. I'd say it's not usually too busy, but occasionally it can be, particularly on sunny weekends. Most of the time it's a peaceful place to escape to after spending time in the town centre. There are toilets on nearby North Road, although we usually walk down to the train station as the toilets there are better.
There's not much else to be said. Wharton Park is a small, pleasant enough green space close to Durham city, with picturesque views and enough going on to keep little ones amused. Although The Battery is a pretty special viewpoint I felt I should knock off a couple of stars due to some areas falling into disrepair or being vandalised and the fact that nothing much seems to have been done about it. The gates close at 8pm between April and September, earlier,(dusk), in the Winter months and reopen in the mornings at 9am.
Update, (Sept '11): Development funding for the park has been awarded and a £1.8m project to revamp the park has passed first round lottery funding proposals, so hopefully the negative points mentioned here will soon be corrected.
Summary: Decent Small Park with great views over Durham City