AFTER three years of building work, the £2.4 million restoration of Boscombe Chine Gardens is finally complete.

The official re-opening saw the Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Valerie Pitt-Rivers, and the mayor of Bournemouth, Anne Filer, unveil a plaque and plant a ceremonial tree in honour of the newly refurbished gardens.

Cllr Filer said: "About seven years ago the council decided to explore ways of improving the gardens.

"I was born and brought up in Boscombe and used to play here as a child. However, over the years they have deteriorated and it wasn't very safe.

"Now they are beautiful, full of people and very open.

"I hope to regularly bring my grandchildren here to play. "

Improvements to the gardens focus around new sports facilities and the remodelling of the mini golf course, toilets and cafe.

Other new features include a set of three hand-carved totem poles, created by Winchester-based sculptor Kate Arnold and designed by local pupils of Linwood Special School using images of animals and nature picked from the local area.

There is a stunning display of flowers in the shape of Thomas the Tank Engine and a colourful butterfly, located within the mini golf course area.

The previously dark and overgrown gardens have been opened up to create a more family friendly atmosphere, with improved lighting and a wider central path.

A pagoda has been installed, along with a turning circle to allow the land trains access to the gardens.

The council's cabinet member for tourism, Michael Filer, said: "The fact that the beach train comes right up into the gardens is an extra attraction."

"These gardens look wonderful. The quality of the work done is superb and I hope residents and visitors alike explore and enjoy all the facilities on offer."

Pupils of local primary schools, including St Michael's Church of England School, were invited to the opening to demonstrate the range of activities now available at the gardens, with arts, crafts and entertainment being provided by the Boredom Busters team.

The project was jointly funded with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Bournemouth Borough Council, with an aim of restoring what the mayor referred to as some "Victorian flavour" to the gardens.

Nerys Watts, the South West regional manager of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "This has been a fantastic project that has restored and opened up Boscombe Gardens for as many people as possible."

Chris Wakefield, chairman of the Friends of Boscombe Chine Gardens, referred to the project as the "catalyst" for the further regeneration of the Boscombe area, which is set to include the construction of Europe's first artificial surf reef, being built next to Boscombe Pier.