Okehampton Town Council is considering refurbishing the old bandstand in Simmons Park which it will dedicate to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The council, which was left a large donation for the park in a will, decided last week (October 3) to progress with a proposal to create a multi-purpose space at the old bandstand site.

Chair of the parks committee, Cllr Christine Marsh, said that the council had ring-fenced the money for a special project and had now decided to renew an historic sight in the park.

She said: ‘Originally we were looking to replace the old bandstand but that is going to be quite expensive to replicate So we’re looking at a really nice wrought iron work, painted green so that it’s not going to stand out in your face because it is a conservation area. We thought we would have it green to match the railings that run around the park as well.

‘Then people can either have artwork in there and likewise we get people going out there wanting to take photographs, maybe for a wedding. We’re trying to maybe promote that area for small weddings because they could put a little marquee up.

‘People could decorate it with some flowers if they were going to go out there for that. So it’s going to be a bit like a multi-use space.’

Plans are already in place to use Simmons Park as an art gallery following the council’s decision to approve an artist’s request that she might use the parkland as an art exhibition space. This is likely to take place in 2024.

Past problems with dampness resulted in the construction of the new bandstand by the leisure centre but the drainage around the old bandstand site has significantly improved since and it is hoped that its refurbishment will encourage the Okehampton Excelsior Silver Band to perform there and provide a family-friendly place to picnic.

Cllr Marsh added: ‘The old bandstand wasn’t used very much as that because back then, it was very wet. If it rained, the ground was quite not baggy but quite damp. That in turn then encouraged midges and gnats and all the rest of it. So people didn’t go out there because it was under the trees - it is still to some degree, but we have had the the drainage improved.

‘The bandstand originally was wood and everything else which is high maintenance. Whereas this one that we’re looking at is going to be galvanised and painted so it won’t rust.’

Following the death of Her Majesty the Queen, the town council has decided to honour her memory by dedicating the refurbished bandstand to her.

Currently, Simmons Park also boasts a leisure centre, bowling green, sports pitches, playgrounds and public garden area for Okehampton residents to enjoy.

Simmons Park was opened in 1907 by then Mayor, Lord Treloar who named the park after local philanthropist Sydney Simmons who had donated the meadow and wood by the East Okement River to the town in order to landscape it into a pleasure garden for the public.

In 1921, Okehampton Town Council acquired the adjoining Kempley Meadows which now forms part of today’s park.

The park has remained a constant favourite among townspeople. In 2012, the park gained a Queen Elizabeth II Fields in Trust award and was awarded ‘Much Loved’ status by Fields in Trust in 2020. It has been nominated again this year.