SAFFRON WALDEN: Bosworth bridges the gap to an MBE

THE man who laid the groundwork for the restoration of one of Saffron Walden’s most prized assets is to receive an MBE.

John Bosworth was named in the Queen’s birthday honours, which were released last week, for his work at Bridge End Gardens.

The former director of planning at Uttlesford District Council played a massive part in turning a derelict, disused and often vandalised site into such a noteworthy attraction.

Mr Bosworth said he was proud to receive the award but stressed there were many hands involved.

“Although I am honoured – and completely flabbergasted – to receive this award, it would not have been possible without the efforts of many others,” he said.

“It was important to involve the whole community and we had a whole range of helpers. We involved young offenders and people with mental health issues. They have been as important to the project as anybody else.”

He added: “I think the gardens are a big asset to the town. I hope there will be future promotion of the gardens and that they will continue to be greatly used by the general public.”

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Mr Bosworth became involved in the project, and the group behind it, the Friends of Bridge End Gardens, in the late 1990s and played a key role in securing the funds – almost �750,000 – to turn the gardens into what they have become today.

Director of operations at the district council, Diane Burridge – Mr Bosworth’s former boss – said: “John pursued securing the future of Bridge End Garden with unequalled passion. He used every ounce of his vast expertise and influence to deliver not just one but two projects to restore the garden to what it is today, a fine example of a Victorian Garden.

“He is a man of great character, some may say a colourful character, who turned his hand from dealing with the architecture of the garden and submission of funding applications through to practical gardening and cooking ‘thank you’ meals on site for the volunteers and workers alike.

“His enthusiasm and determination has driven this project and drawn in much needed support of others to make it a wonderful place to visit.”

- A LONG-SERVING governor of Newport Free Grammar School has also been awarded an MBE in the birthday honours list.

Simon Cooke is to be recognised for his service to education. He said he was “amazed” to receive the honour.

“When I first heard the news I thought it was a joke,” he said. “I was a senior partner at a London firm of solicitors and commuted to London for 36 years but my service to the school is my contribution to the local community.”

Mr Cooke has lived in Clavering for 50 years, and served as village clerk and councillor, and also as treasurer of the village’s playing field committee.

A governor at the grammar school since 1971, he was chairman from 1985 before stepping down from that role 18 months ago. He remains on the board.

During his time as chairman, Mr Cooke oversaw some big changes at the school, notably its transformation from boys only to co-educational, and the doubling of pupil numbers.

He also played a key role in bringing about huge improvements in the school’s reputation and exam results, as well as massive development at the facility including sports astroturf, sixth-form centre and music and drama suite.

Headteacher Sean O’Hagan described Mr Cooke as having a “lawyer’s eye for detail” but someone who is “always able to see the bigger picture”.

He said: “It is wonderful news for Simon to be honoured in that way. I’m the fourth headteacher he has worked with – he’s seen off quite a few of us!

“He is an extremely courteous and generous man, and a pleasure to work with.”