Suffolk Village of the Year 2023

Greenest Community Project Supported by Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Application by the Earl’s Meadow Project 2016

Suffolk’s Creating the Greenest County Awards  are an annual event that highlight the excellent environmental achievements that are being carried out across the county.

The Awards are now in their 9th year, this was our second application, last year finishing in the top 5 out of 19 applications and receiving some positive feedback from the Judges.

This year I was asked to put together an application on behalf of the Earls Meadow Project.   My reluctance fell on deaf ears and I was armed with last year’s application for reference purposes.   Now I am asked to write a report for Green Links, again something which I have refused to do many times previously!

Our application was submitted in the Greenest Community Project category, this year sponsored by Suffolk Wildlife Trust,  the criteria being “Celebrating a community or a group of local volunteers who are working together to improve their surrounding environment, raising environmental awareness and making a difference to others.”    As well as summarising the work we had done, we had to set out how we had improved our community’s environmental behaviour/performance, how we had involved others and how we saw our actions developing in the future.  The awards were based on the 2015 calendar year, so key actions had to have taken place during that time.

By way of background, I outlined how the project started in 2008 when the Parish Council with generous contributions from within the community purchased this four acre site to provide a natural recreational facility for the village.   Oak seating and gates were added together with picnic tables,  the necessary safety fencing around the culvert and the sleeper step path to the water’s edge.   November 2010 saw the acquisition of “Bruff’s Line”, The shady tree lined track is popular with walkers and provides a different habitat for wildlife that complements the open space of the meadow.

The project is managed by volunteers who carry out tasks such as tree planting, coppicing and maintaining pathways.   Large sections of the railway line have been cleared and re-planted with daffodils, snowdrops, Philadelphia and crocus and further benches have been installed in the new meadow and another in a quiet spot along the railway line.  We  have cleared a large section of the river bank to plant our “Remembrance Hedge”, measuring some 50 metres, and  consisting of hazel, blackthorn, crab apple, dog rose and elder having been awarded a tree pack from the Woodland Trust as part of their “First World War Centenary Woods Project”.   We also participated in Grow Wild, the UK’s biggest ever wild flower campaign in partnership with BBC’s Countryfile aiming to inspire communities, friends, neighbours and individuals across the UK to come together to transform local spaces by sowing, growing and enjoying native wild flowers.  We were delighted with our wild flower patch.

Following initial works along the river to improve the habitat for kingfishers and water voles, kingfishers have been seen here and we are very pleased with the increase in water voles.  We have a pair of Egrets who are  regular visitors.   Nest boxes for Barn Owls were erected and those are regularly seen here.

Sections of the railway line have been cleared and re-planted; as a result of this we were rewarded with a beautiful display of cowslips last year.

The school has played an active role in  the development of the project, participating in our extensive bulb planting programme and planting hedging.   The facility is always open to the school to use as an outdoor learning resource.

Children have also helped to plant buddleia cuttings which will hopefully improve our butterfly population further.

This invaluable amenity is used by the community and by visitors from further afield. The  Community Council actively promotes the facility through the New Year’s Day “Hangover Hike”,  their Duck Race and even exhibiting fruit from our orchard at the Village Show.

This project does rely on the commitment of a wide range of people, not just our group of volunteers.   It is very much a community project and we find that the community are more than happy to get involved; benches have been donated, trees funded and residents have collected seed and provided cuttings for us to use.  Locals kindly helped us to clear the river bank and regularly top the meadow when necessary.    We are also grateful to our daily dog walkers, our guardians of the site, who are happy to let us know of any problems.

We intend to continue developing the project, planting new areas which support environmental development.   We also aim to install steps down to the river bank behind the nursery bed and are aware of the need to develop the information available at the site.

Two applications are shortlisted but unfortunately we were not.  However Steff Jones, Suffolk County Council’s Environment Project Officer hoped we would be “heartened to know that you were very close to being shortlisted and the judges had only positive comments about your entry. I would definitely encourage you to enter the awards next year, I think you would be a strong contender again!”  She also included the panel’s comments:-

“A good application which narrowly missed out on a top two place. We were impressed with the level of detailed knowledge on their local area. We liked their forward thinking and their landscape approach to the project. A truly environmentally-friendly approach to creating a community space.”

Although very disappointed not to have made the shortlist, we were obviously pleased to receive such positive comments and will have another go next year.    Hopefully with the introduction of the Asian dwarf owl in 2016 this might make all the difference!

The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at Snape Maltings on 31 March 2016 where TV presenter, writer, rural expert and Suffolk resident Paul Heiney will give this year’s key note speech.


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