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Avenham Park's Japanese garden
Avenham Park is a public park in Avenhammarker, close to the centre of Prestonmarker in Lancashiremarker in the northwest of Englandmarker, and managed by Preston City Council.

The park is located in Preston's Conservation area and leads down to the banks of the River Ribblemarker. It was designed and built in the 1860s.

As an English Heritage Grade II listed park, it features a number of historical structures such as The Belvedere, The Swiss Chalet, The Boer War Memorial and Riverside Walk. The park is one of two city centre Victorian parks in Preston, the other being its neighbour - Miller Parkmarker. The two parks are separated by the East Lancashire Railway embankment and access is through the Ivy Bridge and along Riverside Walk. The East Lancashire Railway line closed in the 1970s although the viaduct across the river, which is a Grade II listed building, remains.

The park was designed by Edward Milner as a "harmonious whole" including the adjacent Miller Parkmarker. The park includes long open lawn areas and hosts a number of annual events throughout the year. Most notable among its many features is the Japanese garden or Rock Garden, which was added in the 1930s when this type of design became fasionable.

The Belvedere
Another major feature of the park is The Belvedere, a pavilion on high ground at the northeastern corner of the park, overlooking the main park and river. The was originally located in Miller Park but was moved to make way for the statue of the Earl of Derby. The Belvedere is known locally as the "White House" or the "Light House".

The 1960s replica tramway bridge across the Ribble
A path on the northern edge of the park follows the route of the Old Tram Roadmarker, which used to link the northern and southern parts of the Lancaster Canalmarker. The path descends an incline to the River Ribble. On the site of the current Belvedere was once a stationary steam engine that hauled waggons up the hill. The path crosses the river on a concrete footbridge built in the 1960s on the site of the original tramway trestle bridge. The modern bridge has been built in the same style as the original wooden structure.

The field in the centre of the park has a gentle slope towards the river, and acts as a natural amphitheatre. The original Victorian Bandstand was demolished and replaced with a brick and concrete stage during the 1950s to enable the area to be used for concerts. This construction had surprisingly good acoustic qualities but fell into disuse and was demolished in March 2006, although the Park is still used for many local and regional annual events. These include Preston's Mela, which celebrates the culture of the city's large Asian community and on Easter Monday children have traditionally rolled decorated eggs down its grassy slopes since Victorian times. Bands and musicians such as Oasis, The Spice Girls, Natasha Bedingfield, Sushi and Mark Owen have also performed in Avenham Park in recent years.

In general, the layout of the park is little changed from when the park was first laid out. An 1889 map[86149] still provides an accurate representation of the park today.

Recent developments

As part of a multi-million pound Heritage Lottery Funded restoration project, both Avenham and Miller Park will see a facelift over the next few years. The refurbishment will include restoration of all of the historical features (including The Belvedere, The Boer War Memorial etc), improved lighting and footpaths, vehicle controls and a new Pavilion incorporating a café, better public toilets and a police post and acting as a base for dedicated park staff.

The old stage, which was removed in early 2006, will be replaced by a small performance area and the facilities to install temporary concert stages like those used at music festivals throughout the country. These improvements will help the park become cleaner, safer and provide more events and activities for the people of Preston.

In September 2008 the new Pavilion, with its cafe, opened. A programme of public lunchtime walks has been scheduled and the function room may also be booked. Attractive new lamps have been installed on the pathways leading to the Pavilion and the Japanese gaden has also been restored and improved.

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