Station Road, Ashington
DescriptionThe history of Ashington is closely tied to the coal mining industry. Until 1840, there was just a farming hamlet here, but the Duke of Portland built housing to encourage miners to come and work in his nearby mines. Miners came from all over the United Kingdom and Ireland, many escaping the potato famine, and settled here.
At its peak, Ashington was known as the largest coal mining village in the world, and it remains one of the largest towns in Northumberland. Locals even spoke with a mining dialect known as Pitmatic, although it is not heard much now, and a group of miners joined painting classes and produced their own paintings to help supplement their incomes. These paintings became an unexpected success and they became widely known as the Pitmen Painters.
The railway arrived in Ashington in 1872, as part of the Tyne to Blyth line, and was used for both freight and passengers until 1964 when the station was closed to passengers as part of the Beeching closures. This gave the town its Station Road, which over time became the main shopping street, housing several department stores and as many as five cinemas! This street was known at one time as being the largest shopping area between Newcastle and Edinburgh.
As the coal industry declined, so did the towns’ fortunes. By the time the last mine closed in 2005, the town had been through hard times. Although other industries had moved in and provided some employment, the town needed a regeneration boost, and Northumberland County Council, with Ashington Town Council proposed to revitalise the town centre. The plans were based around improving access to the retail zone, re-developing the bus station and building a new leisure centre on the site of the old hospital. The first part of the scheme was to bring new life into Station Road.
The street had been pedestrianised many years previously, with tree planting and shrub beds creating several chicanes along the length of the road. Through traffic was not allowed, and deliveries only out of hours; and this was identified as being detrimental to the town centre.
Consultants Hamilton Baillie redesigned the Station Road to be re-opened to traffic, with some car parking spaces, but also giving better space for pedestrians and cyclists. The existing trees and planters were removed and replaced by a line of 14 Hornbeam Trees in GreenBlue Urban ArborSystems and a rain garden separating pedestrians from vehicles. Working with the many underground utilities, GreenBlue Urban assisted the designers and the Northumberland County Council and installing contractors to make the scheme a roaring success.
Warren Cooke of South East Construction emphasised the following:-
I have used GreenBlue Urban products on previous projects. The selection process consisted of components that I have used in the past (namely Strata Cell). However, due to timescales, we were advised that we could use a new alternative system and decided to progress with the Root Space option.
The products are particularly useful for creating a stable substructure to construct on, while creating a void for high quality/loamy soils.
Would you recommend GreenBlue Urban for future projects? Absolutely, the products have proved to be effective time and time again.
A full step by step video of the installation can be viewed here!
Retailers have commented how the new layout and landscaping in the street have revolutionised the whole shopping experience, and the regular Tuesday market in the road has become increasingly popular. The trees soften the street scene, giving shade in summer and encouraging shoppers to take advantage of the new street benches, taking time to just sit and see!