Is Palacerigg a shadow of its former self?

A VISITOR attraction which has been a Cumbernauld favourite for generations has fallen prey to claims that is failing to provide good customer service as demand for the amenity increases.

The News understands that visitor numbers to Palacerigg Country Park have TRIPLED because of the school holidays and uncustomary bouts of sunshine- but this has led to complaints that staff are struggling to cope.

We understand that shortages of food and drink led catering to shut the cafe two hours early last Sunday (April 10) - and that there was a dearth of Park Rangers on-site to assist the public with enquiries.

In addition, some patrons have expressed disappointment that so few animals seem to be out on display at this peak time.

One visitor is former Condorrat resident Margaret McNeil, nee Malcolmson who now lives in Falkirk. Mrs McNeil has since made a complaint to North Lanarkshire Council which runs the facility.

“I used to volunteer at Palacerigg and I wasn’t very impressed with what I saw,’’said Mrs McNeil.

“It wasn’t even possible to buy ice cream and the cafe was shut at 3.30pm.”

And she believes that this is only part of the problem regarding the park.

“The only animals which were really out and about were chickens. There was hardly anything to see. I was very disappointed especially when you think about the way it used to be. Animal-wise, it is just not the same.

“In terms of park rangers, I never saw any. It’s a place that a lot of people still want to visit but it is just not living up to its potential,” said Mrs McNeill.

Palacerigg was the creation of pioneering naturalist David Stephen who lived on-site with his family and introduced rare breeds like wildcats, reindeer and even WOLVES to the park.

Some rare breeds like Eriskay ponies and Tamworth pigs still exist at the park and is accredited by the Rare Breed Surivival Trust, although the council has admitted that some animals have been ‘phased out.’

Two council staff have however leapt to the defence of the facility.

Kenneth Wilson, Head of Land Services with North Lanarkshire Council, said:“Palacerigg Country Park was established in 1974 and in that time it has evolved into the much-loved attraction it is today. Any facility of this nature will change over time.

“The council has recently invested in the playpark at Palacerigg, which visitors agree is a great improvement, as well as introducing a treetop walk and additional visitor facilities like the longhouses, which are used as the base for craft demonstrations. There’s a nature club, golf and field archery courses, 10km of bridle paths and more than 40 hectares of what was once barren farmland and is now a fertile woodland offering a home to native wild species like foxes, badgers, deer, hares, birds of prey and owls.

“So it’s true the park isn’t what it used to be. But change isn’t always bad – and the fact that we continue to welcome thousands of visitors every year to Palacerigg Country Park appears to show that plenty of others agree,” he added.

The council has also stressed that the better weather had stretched amenities but that staff had done their best.

Graham Patrick, Head of Facility Support Services with North Lanarkshire Council, said: “The weekend of 9 and 10 April was unseasonably warm and sunny, and we had an unprecedented number of visitors to the Park for the time of year. That meant we didn’t have quite enough cold meat or ice cream in stock in the café to see us through the whole weekend, and we ran out of these items at about lunchtime on Sunday.

“We were, however, able to continue offering a choice of sandwiches, cakes, tea, coffee and cold drinks to satisfy the needs of the hundreds of people who used the facility,” said Mr Patrick.