A new green space commemorating one of Wisbech’s most famous residents, Octavia Hill, is set to be formally opened on Wednesday, 18 December.
An official ribbon cutting ceremony will be performed by Director General of the National Trust, Dame Helen Ghosh, who will be joined by some of the main contributors who helped fund the £80,000 project led by the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust.
The previously derelict site completed its transformation earlier this year following a major contribution of £35,500 granted by not-for-profit environmental body WREN, alongside funding from Fenland District Council, the National Trust, and donations and work in kind from local community organisations, individuals and companies including Foster Property Maintenance Ltd.
Having sat as a dilapidated eyesore for more than a decade, the boarded up site had become notorious for attracting graffiti and antisocial behaviour. Heavy ivy overgrowth also created concealed areas, making the site a drug dealing hotspot well known by local police.
WREN’s Grant Manager for Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, Sarah Gosling, says: “Octavia Hill was well known for improving social housing, protecting the environment, and believing that everyone should have access to outdoor space for recreation. She was also one of the original founders of the National Trust, making the current head of conservation trust an apt choice to mark the official opening.”
Work on the green, which saw the area transformed into a landscaped public garden of lawns, planting, a paved terrace and seating, was completed in May this year.
Peter Clayton, Chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, says the area has already proved popular: “During the summer the green has been welcomed by the town’s businesses and residents alike, and has been in daily use from dawn to dusk by all ages. Now that the lawns and planting are established, we’re looking forward to officially opening the space and thanking WREN and all other contributors who helped to fund this great project.”
WREN distributes grants of between £2,000 and £75,000 to community projects on behalf of waste management company FCC Environment. Applications for up to 100% of funding can be made for community-based projects such as village halls, children’s play areas, skate parks, museums, public parks and woodland improvements.
Sarah explains that many of Octavia Hill’s aspirations align with the ethos behind WREN. “The ideals around Octavia Hill’s heartfelt desire to help those in need are somewhat similar to the Landfill Communities Fund that WREN administers, which was originally set up to ease the disadvantage of those living near landfill sites.
“WREN has an ethos of supporting projects that are accessible by the general public without exclusion. Projects must make a lasting difference to their users or the community, being as sustainable as some of Octavia’s projects with the National Trust!”
Since 2006, 149 projects in Cambridgeshire have benefitted from grants totalling over £3.5 million. WREN is now inviting applications for the next round of grants from eligible projects within 10 miles of a FCC Environment landfill site.
The next deadline for applications is the 16 April 2014. More information on the grants available and the application process is available at www.wren.org.uk.