Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 12:33 UK

Gardens reopen after 3m revamp

Bancroft Gardens

Famous gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon have been reopened to the public following a £3m landscaping project.

The World Class Stratford project at Bancroft Gardens includes flowers beds, new bridges and pathways.

A sundial has been dedicated to the four Warwickshire firefighters who died tackling a warehouse blaze in 2007.

Some residents have criticised the delay of the scheme which was set to be completed last August. But developers blamed weather and ground conditions.

The gardens, near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, usually attract more than 2.5 million visitors a year.

'Real revival'

Their official reopening was attended by about 100 people, including civic leaders and representatives from community, business and tourism groups.

District council leader Les Topham said: "I think the Bancroft has been reborn as a result of this work.

"It will be the perfect companion and complement for the theatre and other improvements that will be made to this area of the town over the next 12 months."

He said the gardens were a fantastic attraction and he hoped their reopening marked a "real revival" in the town's fortunes.

The revamped gardens include shrubs, herbs and flowers which were popular during Shakespearian times.

Clockwise from top left: Ashley Stephens,  Darren Yates-Badley, Ian Reid, John Averis
The four firefighters died in November 2007

The four firefighters who died tackling a fire in Atherstone-on-Stour in November 2007 are remembered by a sundial in the entertainment area of the gardens.

The names of the men - Ashley Stephens, 20, John Averis, 27, Darren Yates-Badley, 24, and Ian Reid, 44, - are also engraved on a stone bench.

The landscaping project finished behind schedule, but developers have opened some areas to the public.

However, community group Stratford Voice said contingency plans should have anticipated bad weather.

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