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 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.

It was agreed the total cost of the project would be £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

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

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


In 2001 The Trust purchased 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.

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.

In November 2002 oak trees 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 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.

 

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.

In 2005 the ditches in Folly meadow and Lester’s Piece were restored.

In 2006 the Volunteers enjoyed their first Outing with a walk 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.

In February 2008 Arthur’s Wood was planted with mostly native trees.

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.

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.

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.

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 Olympic Open Day 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.

In July the 250th anniversary of the opening of the Blyth Navigation was celebrated with an exhibition in the willow wherry in Folly meadow. The following is an extract from the Norwich Mercury dated July 23rd 1761

“This day we had the pleasure of receiving into our Bason a keel from Southwold, laden with coals and drawing three Feet of water.  We can assure the Publick that the Works for facilitating the Navigation of our River, are constructed and finished with the Greatest Art, and as they afford the most pleasing probability of a particular Benefit to the Town, so do they no less promise to the Country around us a more extensive influence, especially as the Tolls imposed on the several kinds of Merchandise conveyed up and down the Blyth, are low beyond expectation it would be unpardonable ingratitude in us, not to take the earliest Opportunity of acknowledging our Obligation to those Gentlemen, who actuated by generous Zeal for this undertaking nor feared to bring them the Torrent of Malice, Predjudice and interest to bring about to General Benefit.  The Barge was attended from the Town Lock up to the Bason by a numerous concourse of People, assembled not more to satisfy their curiosity at the Novelty of the Sight, then to join in the General Joy and Triumph of the Occasion.”

In September a geological investigation was carried out in Folly meadow to help with the management plan for the Green.

In November two kingfisher nestboxes were inserted into the bank of the River Blyth in Blyth meadow and the willow from a Blyth meadow pollard was planted to form an arch in Folly meadow.

In December the clearance of Angel meadow began.

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

Waveney District Council transferred their part of Bird’s Folly to Halesworth Millennium Green in January and in April the Trustees held a public meeting to discuss its future.

In 1989 concerned local residents formed the Folly Group to look after Bird’s Folly and safeguard it as an open space for the people of Halesworth.Waveney District Council’s Recreation and Amenity committee agreed that Bird’s Folly should be preserved as a conservation area and it became part of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Community Project Scheme. Funding was received from Halesworth Community Council and Waveney’s Lottery Fund towards the cost of tools. The Group then became part of The Environment Group carrying out conservation work in various parts of the town

In 1992 WDC leased their part of the site to Halesworth Town Council for 5 years and discussions started about designating is as a Local Nature Reserve.

In 1999 Southwold Railway Bridge was restored as part of a large regeneration project in the town

In 1992 WDC leased their part of the site to Halesworth Town Council for 5 years and discussions started about designating is as a Local Nature Reserve.

In 1999 Southwold Railway Bridge was restored as part of a large regeneration project in the town

On a snowy weekend in February a public consultation was held in one of the barns on Angel meadow regarding the future of the land.

“The Jubilee Woods Project aims to plant six million trees to celebrate The Queen’s reign and involve millions of people. The Woodland Trust is honoured to have support from the Queen and have HRH The Princess Royal as patron of the project. The project will see 60 Diamond Woods of over 60 acres being created across the UK, 100s of Jubilee Woods up to 20 acres and 1000s of free community tree packs containing 105 or 420 native tree species will be planted, each containing a ‘royal oak’ sapling, grown from acorns collected on Royal Estates”

The Green received two of these packs donated from Rob Hall who had ordered them for his London School (but the area was built on) so in March the restoration of the New Reach’s towpath hedge began.

In June Graham and Dale Peck planted an Arable Weed plot with about 15 species in Scrub Triangle, the old Picnic Site which had been spoiled with New Reach dredgings two years before.   

The Green’s website was launched – https://millenniumgreen.halesworth.net