AFTER eight years of campaigning to save a park’s Gate Lodge, volunteers donned Victorian finery to celebrate the official opening the grade II listed building.

Twelve members of Friends of Victoria Park met to watch the Mayor of St Helens, Councillor Geoff Pearl cut the ribbon to the lodge before walking down to the magnificent 1913-style Orangery.

Up to 100 guests gathered for the opening ceremony and the unveiling of a plaque that marks the £4m lottery funded restoration of the green oasis, known affectionately as ‘Viccy Park’.

Founded in 2005, the Friends started campaigning to save the lodge in 2007 when they handed in a petition to St Helens Council to stop the building being sold off to private developers.

They launched the petition after learning that trustees of the Rutland Street property had applied to the Charity Commission to sell it off by private auction.

“About 10 or 12 of the Friends met up for a little private moment in the lodge beforehand and we opened a bottle of bubbly to celebrate”, said Vikki Watkinson-Roberts of the Friends.

“An awful lot of hard work has gone in to getting the park to the stage it is now.

“We were in Victorian dress to reflect the theme and heritage of the park.”

Councillor Pearl added: “The project has revitalised this much loved park, restoring important historic elements and providing new facilities for visitors to enjoy.”

Ann Shacklady-Smith, one of the original members of Friends of Victoria Park, said: “For us it marked the end of eight years of hard work and grot and the beginning of a new era for the park.”

The Friends have organised a series of events to make the most of the lodge’s new facilities, including yoga classes, storytelling training and Tai Chi sessions.

On Friday, August 29 families are invited to a free session to hear renowned storyteller Sue Allonby, starting at 10am.