Officially opened on May 19, 1994, Brierley Forest Park was developed as a Country Park, to provide footpath, cycling and horse riding networks through a series of plantation woodlands, hay meadows, water bodies, streams and wetland areas.
Opened by David Shooter, chairman of Ashfield District Council between 1993 -1994, the park has been called the 'jewel in Ashfield's crown'.
Mr Shooter said: "On this date 25 years ago as chairman of the council, I had the honour, privilege and great pleasure of officially opening Brierley Forest Park.
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"From the first planting of saplings in a snowstorm in March 1992, the transformation into this now superb woodland by mother nature and an army of dedicated, willing volunteers is truly remarkable.
"Each and every one involved in the park's inception, its upkeep, and the development of this beautiful and unique recreational haven, in the midst of our local community, deserves immense credit."
Originally a former colliery site, Brierley Forest Park was transformed into a wildlife haven with walks covering over two miles. The park is over 78 hectares in size and also provides a football pitch, children’s play area and play trail, fishing, mountain bike track, sculpture features and a visitor centre with café facilities.
The park is located on former farmland and the site of Sutton Colliery, which was originally called ‘The New Skegby Colliery'. The pit shafts were sunk in 1873.
In the late 1970s, the old colliery spoil tips were regraded, partly re-soiled and grassed, although Sutton Colliery itself did not close until 1989. Demolition of buildings and capping of shafts was completed later, together with final land re-profiling and soiling. The bulk of the tips were grassed over and the lower slopes planted with a variety of predominantly native broadleaved trees and shrubs, but also including a non-native element.
Ashfield District Council purchased the spoil heap and surrounding farmland to create the park. Development began in 1992 with the aim creating Brierley Forest Park as a gateway site within the Greenwood Community Forest.
There are permanent reminders of the site’s industrial past, through the timber sculptures outside the visitor centre, the commemorative stone on Rooley Tops, and the pit wheels along the main path to Brierley Waters. Within the visitor centre, there are permanent displays illustrating the site’s history.
Lee Anderson, a former miner at Sutton Colliery said: "Before it was a park, I used to walk along the footpath to work at Brierley pit in my late teens.
"Then it was just a path, a train track and a pit, so it's amazing to see its transformation.
"If you told me 30 years ago I would walk my dog through the forest, and see wildlife like deer and magnificent birds, I wouldn't have believed it.
"It shows that with hard work, and the good grace of the volunteers what can be achieved.
"It really is the jewel in Ashfield's crown".
If you would like to share your memories of Sutton Colliery, or Brierley Forest park, please email [email protected]