Saffron Walden tourist attraction to get £170k visitor centre

PUBLISHED: 15:01 11 December 2014 | UPDATED: 15:01 11 December 2014

An artist's impression of Bridge End Garden

An artist's impression of Bridge End Garden

Archant

The final piece of the puzzle to restore an Uttlesford tourist attraction which draws visitors from across the world was put in place this week after 10 years of hard work.

Bridge End Garden in Saffron Walden will soon benefit from the addition of a new £170,000 visitor and education centre thanks to donations from the community and a number of grants.

When built early next year, the centre will mark the culmination of a £1million project to transform the Grade II listed Victorian garden after decades of neglect.

Complete with display panels and screen monitors showing information about the garden, including details on its history, heritage, conservation, planting of the themed gardens and many photographs, it is hoped the centre will also become an education hub for visiting schools. It will also house modern toilet facilities.

John Bagley, honorary secretary of the Friends of Bridge End Garden, which attracts an estimated 35,000 visitors a year, said: “Everyone is feeling euphoric about raising the money – it is brilliant news.

“Visitors come from all over the world to see this garden, not to mention the schools that use it. We wanted to leave a legacy by creating something that will be there for future generations.”

The embryo of the project first began in 1998 when a group of volunteers, who were later to form the Friends in 2000, stepped in to apply for grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“The gardens had been allowed to self dismantle, it was awful,” Mr Bagley added. “The maze had been decimated, trampled on by people, and the garden had received no care or attention.

“It was such a lovely area but had fallen into neglect – that’s what prompted people to do something.”

Two separate grants were received in 2002 and 2007. These went towards buying new trees and greenhouses and repairing walls and other structures.

Saffron Walden Town Council and the Friends of Bridge End Garden joined forces to raise funds for the new visitor centre 12 months ago.

With a recent boost to funds of over £60,000 from Viridor Credits Environmental Company through the Landfill Communities Fund, they have now reached their £170,000 target needed for the centre’s construction.

It is hoped that contractors can commence the build early next year with completion by June 2015.

Mayor of Saffron Walden, Sandra Eden, said: “The town council has been delighted with the generous grants towards this project which will make a huge difference for the community and this beautiful Garden.

“Everyone should benefit from the new facility – especially the many schoolchildren who are regular visitors and it will give pleasure to future generations.”

The vision is for the visitor centre to act as an interactive learning spot for schoolchildren – where they can learn about the history of the gardens through the ages – as well as an information hub for tourists and residents in the town who are walking round the gardens.

Major grants and donations have been received from The Linbury Trust; Veolia Environmental Trust; Essex County Council Community Initiatives Fund; Saffron Walden Town Council; The Finnis Scott Foundation; Saffron Walden Round Table; Stansted Airport Community Trust; The Worshipful Company of Gardeners and Saffron Walden Initiative.

The Friends of Bridge End Gardens, local businesses, organisations and individuals have also made additional contributions.

For further information on the project, or to get involved, contact Mr Bagley by email at john.bagley@ntlworld.com or drop in at Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre.

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