The Environment Group was formed from the Vision for Halesworth Conference held in November 1997 and it was agreed “Its one priority was to pursue the purchase of 35 acres of grazing marsh behind the Folly as public open space”

A year later exhibitions and information were displayed in the Library and an empty shop in the Town Centre and a questionnaire was distributed via the Community News – 500 of these were returned with only 2 people in opposition.

In 1999 the Holden Brothers of Harleston agreed to sell their 14 hectares/34.5 acres of grazing marsh for £80,000, funding was sought and four members of the Environment Group agreed to form a Trust with Arthur Forrester as Chair.

The total cost of the project was calculated at £130,000 to include for fencing; culverts, bridges and ditching; pollarding willows; information boards, leaflets and waymarking; work on New Reach and Halesworth Lock.

Funding was received from –

  • European Regional Development Fund East Anglia Objective 5b – £65,000
  • The Countryside Agency Millennium Greens (Lottery Funding) – £22,000
  • Suffolk Environment Trust – Landfill Tax – £20,000
  • Suffolk County Council – £6,500
  • Waveney District Council – £3,000
  • Halesworth Community Council – £3,000
  • Halesworth Town Council – £500

During this year Southwold Railway bridge in Bird’s Folly was restored as part of a large regeneration project in the town.

In 2000 the Trustees held their Inaugural Meeting, Charitable status was received and a Business Plan was produced.

A Model Trust Deed was provided as part of the terms of the Grant Aid from the Millennium Greens’ Initiative.

In April the Trustees held a Public Consultation display in Halesworth Library and the different areas of the Green were named ie. Blyth, Chestnut and Folly meadows.

In September the first work party was held when volunteers started to clear the scrub on the top of Halesworth Lock in Blyth meadow.

 


In 2001 The Trust purchased 4 hectares/10 acres of Lester Kent’s land, between Blyth Road Industrial Estate and the Town River for £22,500, which enabled access to Blyth meadow under the railway bridge and became known as Lester’s Piece.

David Pratt from Ubbeston started to graze his cattle on parts of the Green.

As a condition of the Millennium Greens’ Funding ‘Free Spirit’, a sculpture by Patrick Elder, was erected on the Picnic Site (now Scrub Triangle). Unfortunately it was broken in two in 2006 and half was later recovered when the New Reach was dredged. Patrick managed to salvage this and it was donated to Richard Woolnough, Trust’s Chair at the time.

The Trust was awarded a Probert Community Initiatives Award.

The first Annual Meeting was held at 8 pm on 15th June at The Maltings in New Cut, a building being restored as an Arts Centre (now The Cut).

 

The 2002 Annual Meeting was held at 8 pm on 14th June in New Cut Arts.

In November trees, including several oaks, were planted at the end of Lester’s Piece to screen the Industrial Estate, now the containers are situated amongst them.

 

In January 2003 trees were planted along the fenceline of Lester’s Piece to screen Hammonds and the Industrial Estate.

The Trust’s first mechanical aid was purchased – an Allen Scythe.

The Annual Meeting was held at 8 pm on 21st July at The Cut Arts Centre.

The UK sustainable transport charity Sustrans purchased Lester Kent’s two acres of land by Six Arches, together with a strip of land along the railway embankment to the crossing at Mells, to create part of their national Cycle Network Route 1 which connects Dover to the Shetland Islands. The Trust agreed to manage the land.

Permission for a Right of Way under the north arch of Six Arches was granted by licence from Railtrack, at this stage for pedestrians only.

 

In 2004 slips from pollarded willows in Blyth meadow and other trees were planted in Two Acres to screen the Sewage Treatment Plant but ensuring the view of Six Arches was retained from Bramfield Road.

The Annual Meeting was held at 7 pm on 25th June in the Town Council chamber, London Road.

In 2005 a new length of ditch was dug in Folly meadow and the spring-fed ditch in Lester’s Piece was dredged.

The Annual Meeting was held at 10 am on 12th June on Lester’s Piece.

In 2006 the first Volunteers’ Outing was suggested by Peter Downing, a Trustee, who organised a walk across his farm at Chediston to, and a meal at, the Huntingfield Arms.

Barn owl boxes made by Mike Culling, one of the Trustees, were erected in Blyth meadow.

An article in August’s Community News stated that “The Trustees were delighted that the Six Arches link was officially opened by Graham Elliott of Sustrans following their Annual Meeting on Sunday 9th July. This footpath connects the Green with Swan Lane and provides an attractive circular walk. It has been made possible by the purchase of a small field (Two Acres) by Sustrans as part of their improvements to National Cycle Route No.1.  Sustrans is the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity, working on practical projects so people can choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment.”

In October Arthur Forrester resigned through ill health and Richard Woolnough was elected Chair.

In June 2007 a few volunteers took part in the Lions Carnival Parade.

The Rights of Way team from Suffolk County Council diverted Footpath 14 further along the edge of Blyth meadow to avoid several bridges, including the one over Halesworth Lock, which had become dangerous.

The Annual Meeting was held at 10 am on 10th June on Lester’s Piece.

In February 2008 Arthur’s Wood was planted with mostly native trees and the fence beside the New Reach in Chestnut meadow was moved .

The Trust received a Breathing Places grant from the Big Lottery Fund which enabled them to plant the Community Orchard with apple, pear, plum and cherry trees bought from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project.

The grant also supported a Community Arts Project in April when James Holloway and his Mouth to Mouth Theatre Company performed Black Shuck on Folly meadow to an audience of over 400 – a musical tale of smugglers, King’s men and the river.

In May Trees for Cities planted a black poplar in Folly meadow on behalf of Festival Republic, organisers of the Latitude Festival in Henham Park.

The Annual Meeting was held at 10 am on 22nd June in Folly meadow.

The ‘otter seat’ was created at the confluence of the River Blyth and Town River in Blyth meadow on the last day of the year.

Further Breathing Places funding was used in June 2009 by holding an Open Weekend in Folly meadow with various displays and nature trails all over the Green. More than 250 people attended, including lots of young people, who got very involved with all the activities on offer including weaving the willow wherry. The dipping platform was built by the ditch in Folly meadow for this event.

Wilfrid George, a former resident and chemist in Halesworth, purchased a length of the old Southwold Railway line in 1966. It runs for over 350 metres east from Bird’s Folly and in order to safeguard its long-term use by the local community Wilfrid George gifted it to the Trust. The Official Handover was celebrated in November.

Extract from a letter from Wilfrid George dated 6th September 1989 –

“About 1963 it looked to me as if all hope of the Southwold Railway ever re-opening was lost, mainly because the old bridge on Blythburgh Dam, where the A12 went up over the railway, had been levelled out.  So there was a likelihood that the land would be sold up – accordingly I started making enquiries.  Halesworth UDC was warned that ‘someone was trying to buy up the Folly’ – and I was only too pleased to let them take over my offer.  But they were not interested in the 340 yards of track to the east, which I had tried to buy also, and so I made an offer for that.  So I finally in 1966 purchased what I call ‘Rails’ End’ which goes along the old railway line from Birds Folly to the property ‘Abbots Hill’ owned by Mr Rodwell.”

In November 56 trees were planted against the railway in Mike’s Triangle, Blyth meadow, to screen the Industrial site however this was not very successful and not many survived.

In January 2010 The Environment Agency dredged the New Reach channel to clear silt and weed, “This is a most welcome news as it has become completely overgrown in some areas. It will look a mess to begin with but we will really see the benefit next summer“. Unfortunately work was held up because of flooding.

The kissing gate by White Bridge into Folly meadow was removed at one of the April work parties and re-used at the Holton end of Rails’ End.

The Animal Olympics in June was a great success with many people/families attending despite the cold weather. All enjoyed the simple fun of the day and activities like pond dipping, willow weaving, making birds’ nests and the Olympic games – Longest jump, Strongest crush, Slowest creep, Fastest short run and Fastest long run.

During the summer a wooden seat from Mike Culling was placed in a corner of Folly meadow and in November willow whips were planted to form an arbour.

2011 The metal stile at the entrance of Two Acres from Swan Lane was removed at one of the April work parties and a bridge was built over the ditch.

The Annual Open Meeting was held at 7.30 pm on 16th June in St Mary’s church hall and included a power-point presentation by Richard Woolnough.

In July the 250th anniversary of the opening of the Blyth Navigation was celebrated with an exhibition in the willow wherry in Folly meadow.

In November the willow whips from a Blyth meadow pollard were planted to form an arch in Folly meadow.

Planning Permission had been granted for a dwelling behind George Maltings with the condition that the 2 hectares/5 acres of land on the other side of Town River passed to the the community. In August the land passed to the Millennium Green Trust and in December demolition started of two old and dangerous buildings adjacent to the Town Park and New Reach.

Clearance of the land, now known as Angel meadow, continued throughout 2012 and a few volunteers started to meet midweek to help with this and thus the Wednesday Wonders were born.

On a snowy weekend in February a Public Consultation was held in the remaining building regarding the future of the land.

In January Waveney District Council transferred their part of Bird’s Folly to the Trust and in April the Trustees held a Public meeting to discuss its future.

In March the restoration of the New Reach’s towpath hedge began by planting two hedgerow packs from the jubilee Woods project donated by Rob Hall.

The Trust’s website was launched during this year.

The Annual Meeting was held at 7.30 pm on 6th July in St Mary’s church hall which included a power-point presentation by Sal Jenkinson the new Chair of the Trust.