When a community pulls together amazing things can happen
- Credit: Keith Mindham Photography
Once upon a time there was an untidy overgrown area in the heart of a Norfolk town centre.
It was a magnet for rubbish to be thrown into and surrounded by unsightly blue hoardings.
The company which owned it had planned to redevelop it but a combination of market conditions and Covid meant that was not possible.
Local people sighed as they went past and wondered if the parcel of land would ever be improved.
"That'll always be like that..." was commonly heard as they shuffled past.
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And then came a remarkable transformation.
The place I'm talking about is my home town of Dereham.
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The location I'm referring to is the new Ellenor Fenn Garden, which has been created in the town centre between Chapel Walk and Wrights Walk.
If you live locally and haven't been down there yet, then you must.
If you are elsewhere in the county, then why not pop over and look?
The reason I'm so enthusiastic about this little pocket park is that's what can happen when a private company, councils, a local organisation set up to promote the town, a church and other bodies come together with a united vision and energy to make things happen.
Dencora - which runs the Dereham Shopping Centre - owned the area of derelict land and gave it away for the project.
The aboutDereham organisation was then awarded a £15,000 grant from the Pocket Park Fund, a government pot of money to encourage regeneration in local communities.
Breckland Council matched the money and the £30,000 enabled a local landscaping firm to be employed to turn the eyesore into what it is today - a fresh, welcoming and attractive garden named after a Ellenor Fenn, who is a remarkable woman in Dereham's history.
The garden has space for events (the first is a music morning on October 2) plus benches to sit and relax, a children's corner and lots of lovely plants and wildlife features.
Lots of people are already enjoying the garden - and the apathy about work ever happening there has been replaced with enthusiasm.
I already sense that the creation of the green lung will be the catalyst for more positive developments in the town - and I hope similar things can happen in other areas.
I attend Dereham Baptist Church and it's been a pleasure for us to be involved in the project.
We are next to the park and now have a gate between it and our church garden, and we're making improvements to make our outside area more welcoming.
Dereham Crafters - the brilliantly talented group who have done so much to make the town centre colourful with their yarn bombing - have produced some fantastic creations in the park.
Basically the whole project is community inclusion at its best.
Paul Hewett, Breckland Council's executive director for property and projects, summed the project well: "The garden is a fabulous asset to the town.
"It's amazing just what can be achieved when various organisations work together, and it is great to see a community come together to celebrate a brighter future.
"Right in the heart of Dereham, I hope the Ellenor Fenn Garden and performance area will become a fantastic space for residents and visitors to relax in and catch up with friends or family while out visiting or shopping in Dereham."
So well done to everyone involved - and as we move on further from the pandemic, may it be an inspiration to others.