“Queen Elizabeth Country Park is a beautiful country park and has so many fantastic attributes to it that just weren’t being represented in the existing visitor centre. Hampshire County Council’s Country Park Transformation Programme, lead by the Countryside Service, asked Property Services to review the whole area, bringing the original Centre back to life and make it fit for the 21st century.
“The visitor centre was built and opened in 1977 for the Queen’s jubilee, hence the name Queen Elizabeth Country Park. We are invigorating it rather than knocking it down and starting again because that’s not the green thing to do! The original building was actually designed by Casson Conder who famously designed the Elephant House at London Zoo.
“One of the challenges was to make the Visitor Centre friendlier and more welcoming. Anybody who has visited the site before knows that there was a big gable front which made coming into the building disorientating. So, what we’re doing is bringing the visitor welcome into the main part of the building (formerly the cinema) and then opening the rest of the centre up so that you can see and walk all the way through.
“Work started on the project in January and we are still on target to open in September with a special event to celebrate the occasion after that – more details will be available shortly.
“We’re very lucky at Hampshire County Council to have our own engineers and design professionals. The interior design team has taken a particularly important role in this project showing off their fantastic experience with public buildings. When you enter the building there will be a wonderful new visitors’ welcome desk, a new shop area, and then what we’ve really tried to do with the layout of the building is blend the areas together, so the café will blend into the visitor welcome area.
“At the back of the shop area, which used to be the old reception area, you’ll see a new glazed screen with views of a brand-new hall which visitors can hire for birthday parties, classes, exhibitions, community groups and more. It has its own kitchenette, toilet and storage which really opens up how the public can use Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
“The brand-new café will have an open kitchen area, where you will be able to watch your food being prepared and will be able to seat more people. It will provide more locally sourced, seasonal and much tastier food and drink - really celebrating the best that Hampshire has to offer.
“The popular courtyard is also being refreshed with new picnic tables which will be accessible from the new doors leading out from the café area – connecting the inside with the outside.
“As part of the project we are also refurbishing the staff offices at the rear of the building. It was actually the ranger’s house previous to Hampshire County Council using it as offices, so they’ve always been quite enclosed places to work. We’re opening up those spaces so that the countryside staff can work more efficiently.”
Rebecca Galbraith also has a passion for painting and sculpting using lots of different textures – she found inspiration in this project by first doing a painting of Butser Hill.