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News from Pillowell Recreation Ground

This news update has been kindly provided by this week’s guest blog editor Jean Norton, Clerk to the Trustees for The Recreation Ground (War Memorial) at Pillowell.  
Foresters’ Forest programme has been working closely with many volunteers, including Jean, who contribute so much to our programme and the Forest’s natural heritage.  In recent months Foresters’ Forest has been able to support Pillowell ‘Rec’ by helping with the installation of a new fence.
Here is Jean’s story:
“The Recreation Ground (War Memorial) at Pillowell” had been without trustees since the 1990s and it took more than a year to find a way forward, but this 100 year old charity was reinstated in 2020 and the new Trustees have started to modernise its structure.
Pillowell Recreation Ground (‘the Rec’) itself survived, although not quite as it was in its heyday of cricket and football pitches. The fences were derelict and the playing surfaces have deteriorated but this site is now a glorious meadow surrounded by ancient woodland - a much loved sanctuary for wildlife and place of relaxation for locals and visitors alike.
Sadly this valuable ‘lowland dry acid grassland’ habitat has been seriously damaged by boar. The local community decided that a replacement fence would be a good idea so Pillowell Village Hall Committee launched a fund-raising campaign. With additional grants gratefully received from West Dean Parish Council, Dean Meadows Group and the Foresters’ Forest Landscape Partnership, the new fence became a reality!
Land management was a first priority so a few “workdays” were organised by the Charity in autumn 2020. Our thanks go to Forestry England and Dean Green Team volunteers for managing two of these. A couple of trees needed immediate attention, there was some litter picking to do and we cleared the boundary so the long awaited replacement fence could be erected.
The new fence at the Rec was finally finished in January 2021 and is now checked daily by a small group of volunteers, many thanks to them for easing our workload.
Many people have asked “what next?”.  Our Trustees are, first and foremost, responsible for the assets of the Charity – i.e. its land and money. So, apart from worrying how to fill the piggy bank, we have been busy with Spring hedge/tree jobs and harrowing to improve the damaged grass.
The official mission of the Charity is “to administer and manage the ‘Rec’ as a war memorial and recreational space for the benefit of the inhabitants of the village of Pillowell and the neighbourhood”.  There is no obligation for the Charity to provide recreational activities or specific facilities. However, depending on the interests and willingness of our Volunteers, we hope to provide or coordinate some community or leisure activities.  Maybe an Easter egg hunt, teddy bear’s picnic, guided nature/history trail or green woodwork and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has offered a couple of special interest days.
Hopefully additional recreational opportunities will arise through partnerships with the community or clubs wishing to use this space - including the Pillowell annual fete when COVID-19 restrictions permit this.
Our lack of parking, water and toilets may be a drawback and the work of the Charity, and the future of the Rec, will inevitably be limited by funding and volunteering capacity. We need to cover insurance and maintenance costs and we will depend on the skills, availability and energy of the Volunteers we recruit. A worthy challenge for all of us who love and use this glorious space?
It will take a long time to repair the land but it was an honour to mark Remembrance Sunday 2020 and the Rec’s designation as a War Memorial with our homegrown poppy logs.  We will soon be celebrating the Centenary of the Charity and our aim is that this recreational space should gradually become more accessible, more diverse and of increasing benefit to the community and wildlife for another century.”
Jean Norton