Whether it be dog walkers, hikers and bikers, or picnic lovers, thousands flock to popular tourist attraction Shipley Country Park.
And this year marks the 40th anniversary of the award-winning park’s opening. Tucked away between the towns of Heanor and Ilkeston, the park – which has retained the prestigious Green Flag award for the eighth year running – is somewhat of a lush green paradise. Covering 600 acres, it offers a rich variety of landscape including woodland, lakes a reservoir, ponds, hills and wildlife meadows.
The estate, on Slack Lane, goes back to the time of the doomsday book, but the park as we know it started life in the 18th century as the family estate to the Miller-Mundys who also used the area for mining. After years of neglect, the area was restored in 1976 by the county council and transformed into a country park. It is a great place to spend the whole day or just an hour or two – walking, cycling or horse riding on 18 miles of trails – or joining one of the events held throughout the year. There are fishing platforms, a bird observation point and three play areas for children. After all this activity you could have a picnic and watch the world go by or visit the visitor centre in the park. The park is accessible to all, including the visitor centre, gift shop, cafe and adventure play area.
And someone who knows only too well what the park has to offer is countryside ranger Kevin Nicholson.
The 48-year-old joined Derbyshire County Council’s Countryside Service as a warden seven years ago and three years ago was promoted to his current role.
At Shipley there is no ‘typical’ day and that is part of the attraction. He may arrive with ‘plan A’ in mind but this usually gets rapidly overtaken by events as the day unfolds and he works with the public, contractors and fellow staff. He does try to get his paperwork done early in order to maximise his time outdoors in the park.
Central to Kevin’s role is working with volunteers of all ages. He said: “They must like it here as they tend to stay around. One chap – Shane from Langley Mill, has longer service here than me. We reckon he has been volunteering for more than 15 years.
“Shipley Country Park is a beautiful place to work – a real gem – and no day is ever the same.”
Seeing projects through is another attraction of the job. Kevin has created the picturesque Shipley Meadows and helped the woodlands to thrive through coppicing and hedge-laying.
If there is a downside to the job Kevin would say it is the small percentage of visitors who drop litter or don’t clear up after their dogs.
But he is determined to help educate them to look after their countryside for the sake of everyone.
Volunteers of all ages and experience are welcome at Shipley Country Park and at Derbyshire County Council’s other countryside sites. Volunteers are given training and the opportunity to be involved in a wide variety of countryside tasks. For more visit: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/countryside.
The park is also hosting a range of events over the coming months for youngsters to get stuck into and embrace the great outdoors.
Events include treasure hunts every day from 11am to 3.30pm until September 4. There will also be the launch of the 14th Amber Valley and Erewash Walking Festival on September 10. The 16-day festival offers 30 walks, which are launched at Shipley.
Find out more by visiting: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/shipleycountrypark.