As the multi-million pound restoration of Chester Farm begins, the grounds are set to open to the public so people can get to know this historic landscape whilst the buildings undergo their two year re-development.
Led by Northamptonshire County Council the £12.7million initiative, which includes £4.9 million funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will take the little-known site and transform it into a nationally recognised heritage area.
In 2018 when all the building work is finished, Chester Farm will showcase the many layers of rich history at the location, dating back more than 10,000 years.
However rather than having to wait until that date to be given access people will be allowed on to the scheduled ancient monument so they can see the work progress and potentially give feedback.
What will be on-site?
From Sunday, 1 May, the public will be able to see what Chester Farm has to offer by making their way around three specially-designed walking routes.
Cllr Heather Smith, deputy leader of the county council, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve reached this very exciting stage of the Chester Farm project in allowing the public access to what is one of the most important historical sites in the county. I am particularly grateful for the support we have from the Heritage Lottery Fund and all the people who buy lottery tickets.
“Of course, we’ve got a long way to go in developing Chester Farm into somewhere which is easily accessible but it’s important that people are involved so they can see how the project evolves.
“Although in terms of being a tourist attraction, Chester Farm is very basic at the moment, being on site and knowing that there are many rich layers of history condensed into one place is a wonderful experience.”
Visitors will be encouraged to download leaflets, which include the walking routes, from the Chester Farm website, although paper copies will be available which can be collected at the start of the walks.
Exploring Chester Farm
The walking routes will allow exploration of almost a third of the site and will take people around the west, north and east ramparts of where the Roman town once stood.
There will also be the opportunity to take a stroll up to the walled kitchen garden to get a better view of the currently dilapidated farm complex, work on which will begin very shortly and will take nearly two years.
And to experience one of the more recent conservation projects, visitors can head down to Holm Meadow which is a 12-acre islet that in March 2015 was scarified and seeded with a wetland meadow mix of flowers and grasses. The meadow will take more than five years to mature.
As the Chester Farm site is a work in progress, facilities will be extremely limited at this stage. Currently there is no café or toilets and, for the moment, very poor access for people with disabilities.
From 1 May to 31 October, 2016 the gates to Chester Farm will open between 8:00am and 6:00pm every day. Access to the visitor car park is off the A45 eastbound carriageway, via Claudius Way NN8 2DH.