Villagers launch bid to buy Heacham Park, where Pocahontas stayed when she visited Norfolk

Heacham Park, pictured from the air by Mike Page.

Heacham Park, pictured from the air by Mike Page.

Campaigners want to use money set aside in a youth and community trust fund towards the cost of buying the park, which is on sale for £550,000.

They say £385,000 was originally intended for youth facilities but never used. They fear if the land is not bought by the village, it will be developed for housing.

Retired builder Jimmy Groom, 68, of Poplar Avenue, said: 'I'm a Heacham man born and bred and I've watched my village go under bricks and mortar.

'The developers have come in, they've got their money and gone. The only bit of Heacham we've got left is the park.

'The park is up for sale and we've formed a committee to try and buy the park for everybody, for eternity. We can't lose this chance to save the last bit of Heacham.'

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Mr Groom said a 10-strong steering group had been formed to oversee a new trust fund to buy the park. Members will be meeting the parish council to ask it to back their campaign.

Parish council chairman Peter Colvin said: 'There is a group of people in the village that that want to save the park – it's the last link between Heacham Hall and Pocahontas.

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'If people do buy it there will be ongoing maintenance costs and for the public to use it health and safety will need to be involved.

'A resident did organise a meeting where around 60 people attended so the more people that do go into buy it obviously the costs would be cheaper.

'There isn't any developers interested in it yet but the vendor would receive a percentage of any revenue for any future development.'

Parish clerk Phillipa Sewell said: 'There was a newsletter sent out saying the park is for sale, which people want to buy to prevent future development.

'I understand it is private property and in joint ownership. The parish council is looking at this and there is a steering group that has been set up.

'But there are considerable costs in managing the park, including the fish pond. If residents feel strongly we will do what we can for their interests.'

The 48-acre park was originally the grounds of Heacham Hall, which burned down in the 1940s.

It was once home to John Rolfe, who in 1614 married the American indian Princess Pocahontas.

Rolfe brought his wife to see his ancestral home in Norfolk in 1616, but they settled in Essex, where she died in 1617.

The park includes a three-acre carp fishing lake called Pocahontas Lake. Mr Groom said the trust fund would be called the Pocahontas Trust.

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