Piddlehinton Millennium Green

Piddlehinton Millennium Green

Its History

Up to the mid 1990's, the only areas of "open ground" within the village that could be enjoyed by adults and children for informal exercise and relaxation were a large field crossed by several footpaths and with the River Piddle running through - where the Owner seemed to turn a blind eye to public access - and the permissive football pitch field.

It seemed that the ability for children, in particular, to be able to play & explore safely in an open space within the village was such an important part of their upbringing that, with the risk that the permissive enjoyment of the existing facilities might one day come to an end, the Village should attempt to secure a permanently available plot of land, preferably with access to the River.

Attempts in the mid 1990's to secure a piece of land for the permanent enjoyment of the Village had failed when discussions with the Landowner stalled.

In 1996 the Countryside Agency decided to mark the turn of the Century by establishing 250 Millennium Greens.

Their aim was to stimulate, by assisting with up to 50% of the funding, the creation of new areas of public open space close to peoples' homes that could be enjoyed permanently by the local community.

They were to be breathing spaces, places for relaxation and play, enjoyment of nature and pleasant surroundings, developed by local people who had to draw up the plans, purchased the land and carry out the work.

With this opportunity to obtain significant financial assistance, it was decided to resurrect the aim of securing for the permanent benefit of the community part of one of the last pieces of undeveloped land within the Village.

A Working Party was formed, fund raising started and the Village consulted about what they would like from a Green, in addition to an open field and preferably with access to the River Piddle. They decided on "Rustic style children's play structures, picnic tables, benches and barbecue area."

After successful negotiations and fund raising, in Jan 1999 the Trustees - on behalf of all the Residents of Piddlehinton - purchased the 2.2 acre field, which was fenced and had hedges planted in July 1999. At the official opening on 24th June 2000, the dream of a Piddlehinton Millennium Green was realised by the village community.

In Jan 2000 Gardeners World expert Ivan Hicks joined families at Piddlehinton to help build an unusual play structure.

Willow branches were planted to create a tunnel resembling a dragon on the Millennium Green. The willow dragon tunnel was part of plans to make the field next to the river Piddle accessible to everyone and to protect it for generations to come.

Chairwoman of the Village Green trustees, Susan Belgrave, said at the time "Villagers of all ages turned out to help build the tunnel. There's a little more to do but it is looking really nice. It's made of living Willow so it will grow to give it coverage. We've made a couple of huts at each end of the tunnel so the kids can have a lot of fun playing there. We are also about to receive two wooden sculptures and we've ordered some benches and picnic tables. It will all be complete by the summer and we're having a village party on June 24th to launch it".

In summer 2001 a 6tonne block of Portland Stone was selected from Perryfields Quarry on Portland and placed just inside the entrance to the Green and inlaid with an engraved map of the village, created by a local artist. A yellow "Time Capsule" was filled with selected items representing the year 2000, sealed and buried under the stone.

A dipping platform and a paddling ramp were also constructed to give safe access to the River Piddle, so that visitors could explore the aquatic wildlife.

In 2003 a wooden "Play Castle" was built, to provide further opportunities for imaginative play by the children.

The RNLI also donated a retired wooden dingy, now named 'The Millennium Belle',which was mounted on the river bank.

In 2007 an area of the field was set aside to be developed into and managed as a wildflower meadow. The trustees have planted over 1000 assorted wildflower "plugs" into this area, which is now thriving and has won award/recognition from DWT. One interpretation board - funded by Piddlehinton Open Gardens (2010) and Eton College - has been erected by the Millennium stone to explain the diversity of flora and fauna now to be found and another board - funded by Tesco Environmental Awards and Wessex Salmon & Rivers Trust 2008 - has been placed by the paddling ramp to explain the River habitat.

In 2013, Ivan Hicks returned to renovate the Dragon, which was looking very tired. With the help of villagers and children from Piddle Valley First School, it was then resplendent and revitalised. (Subsequently, it had to be cut back as the growth was becomming too old and is now being re-formed using the new growth.)

At the same time, the Trustees arranged for the hedge against West Lane to be laid, to encourage its health and strength.

It is a beautiful site for a village Green, approached both by a footpath from the High St and a track from Rectory Road, with the River Piddle running along one boundary.

In 2018, the "Millennium Belle" boat unfortunately reached the end of its life and had to be replaced. After a suitable "Viking" send-off by the Trustees, a replacement boat - The "Piddle Pirate" was obtained. After a winter of very hard work by volunteers, repairing and modifying the new boat, it was installed on the Green and has been very popular with the children.

In 2019 it sadly became necessary to replace the wooden Play Castle structure, due to rot developing in some of the main timbers. Unfortunately, current safety regulations prevented it being replaced with something similar, so modern playground equipment had to be installed. The village was canvassed for its opinion and the new equipment reflects the voiced desires of the villagers.

The new play equipment was funded by Grants, Donations and various fundraising events.

A local teenager, who lives in Piddlehinton, has taken on the Duke of Edinburgh challenge and as part of this she has made, and installed herself, two beautiful new bird boxes

The Green requires constant, careful, maintenance in order to remain a place of quiet enjoyment with a significant wildlife interest and to keep the equipment safe to use. It is managed on behalf of the Community by a board of Trustees, all voluntary, who not only carry out much of the work themselves, but have to raise significant funds each year.

A "Friends of the Green" society has been set up to help with fund raising. The subscriptions can be Gift Aided, meaning that their value is increased by a refund from the Inland Revenue. If interested in joining, please email Susan Dredge

The establishment of the Piddlehinton Millennium Green would not have been possible without generous funding and donations from:

MILLENNIUM LOTTERY FUND (50%),Personal donations, West Dorset District Council, Piddle Valley Parish Council, Dorset County Council, UK Atomic Energy Authority (Winfrith), Clover Trust, Hanson Trust, Ellen Cooper-Dean Trust, Leonard Laity Trust, Peacock Trust, Wessex Water, Kingston Maurward College, West Dorset Leisure Development Fund, National Lottery Awards for All, Hanson's Bath and Portland Stone Quarry, John Selman, Pebbles Playgroup, Garfield Weston Foundation, Village Carol Singers, Proceeds from Piddlehinton Book, Hanford Farms Plc, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Glassmaster, Weston Antennas, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Nick Haydon, Sam Gispert, Mark Chutter, Trustees Past and Present.

The continued management of the Green is made possible by annual fundraising by the Trustees and generous donations and physical support by the Residents of the Valley.

If anyone is interested in becoming a Trustee, Supporter, a Friend of the Green or just helping out from time-to-time, please contact any one of the Trustees.