Aden Country Park celebrates strong visitor numbers

Visitor numbers at Aden Country Park increased by nearly 20,000 last year despite major improvement works being carried out.

Even with the children’s play area being out of commission for the first six months of 2019 as a host of exciting new equipment was installed, the number of visitors rose to a whopping 243,936.

According to park management, October was a real success story, attracting 29,846 visitors compared to 13,952 - more than double the visitor number across the same time period.

The new play facilities have undoubtedly played a major part in that success, featuring a range of equipment aimed at children of all ages and abilities including a double cableway zip-slide, supernova, castle, basket and five-way swings, carousels, springers, seesaw, wobble bridge, sand diggers, farmer’s den, jeep and petrol station, parkour, hammock, balance posts, dome, space net, stilts, and toddler activity unit.

Most of the installed play equipment is DDA accessible including a fabulous roundabout to ensure that children of all abilities can play together.   

Now, with further improvements being planned throughout 2020 as part of the Aden Restoration and Redevelopment Project, visitor numbers are being forecast to increase even further.

Neil Shirran, Aden project co-ordinator, said: “We are all delighted with the increased visitors figures which are testament to all the tremendous work being undertaken by a host of Aberdeenshire Council staff and the Friends of Aden volunteers, all supported, of course, by our generous funders who are making these developments possible.

“The new play area has been developed as part of a £2.13million National Lottery Heritage Fund project which will also be supporting archaeological investigations, a wide range of events and activities, the major restoration and redevelopment of both Aden’s historic buildings and landscape, planned improvements to park interpretation, accessibility and signage and a programme to enhance biodiversity.”

Welcoming the surge in visitors to the park, Central Buchan councillor and chair of the Buchan Area Committee, Norman Smith, said: “The installation of the new play area at Aden was certainly a major factor in the tremendous visitors numbers it has enjoyed, but the park has so much more to offer both local communities and visitors.

“Aden remains very much a jewel in the crown of the North-east and, of course, the playpark is just the first strand in a far wider project which will create even more attractions for everyone to enjoy.”

Landscape Services manager Jack Grant, whose dedicated team was singled out for praise for its installation of the playpark equipment by providers Kompan, added: “This has been a great year for Aden, particularly given the partial closure during construction of the new playpark.

“We’ve also seen the playpark being very well used during the winter months, especially during weekends, with lots of children enjoying the wonderful new play facilities on a daily basis.”

The development of the new play area was made possible with funding support from a wide range of organisations and individuals including The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), Scottish Landfill Communities Fund bodies - Viridor Credits, FCC Communities Fund and Easter Hatton Environmental - along with support from the Friends of Aden, Buchan Development Partnership, Macduff Shellfish, Claymore Homes, Macbi Community Hub, Bancon Homes, Café at Aden, Colaren Homes, Mintlaw Vet Surgery, Hamish Watson, David Barron, Mr & Mrs Smith, and both cash and non-cash contributions from Aberdeenshire Council itself.

The main strands of the Aden Restoration & Redevelopment Project are as follows:

• A range of improvements to visitor facilities, including improved access, upgraded courtyard, path works, the opening up of the ground floor of the Coach House to develop an interactive interpretation, education and activity area, along with the creation of wildlife and farming heritage trails

• Improvements to the biodiversity of habitats for plants and wildlife including works to the Mill Pond, new planting, the control of invasive species and woodland management

• The development of environmental, archaeological and heritage-related volunteer and learning opportunities

• A new adventure play area aimed at children of all ages and abilities

• The creation of outdoor learning classrooms with a new pond dipping platform, boardwalk, wildlife shelter, and nature trails

• The uncovering, recording, and interpretation of a series of significant archaeological sites including a Neolithic structure, lost Keith Castle, Mansion House and WW1 trenches

• Formal learning programmes and resources developed for schools to complement the curriculum for excellence

• The stabilisation of the Gardener’s Cottage and the repurposing of the Grieve’s House to create new enterprises and new income sources in the future

• The conservation of Aden’s designed landscape including the restoration of structures such as the three historic lodges, features and planting along with the stabilisation of at-risk buildings

• The development of a wide range of interpretation e.g. interpretation centre, smartphone app, films, website, leaflets and panels, to encourage visitors to engage with Aden’s natural, built, cultural and archaeological heritage

• The delivery of a wide range of heritage related events and activities aimed at a wide range of audiences