A derelict area next to Rayleigh rail station in Essex has been turned into a public garden thanks to the work of volunteers who have transformed it into a new community space.
The Friends of Rayleigh Station have spent the last year working with Essex & South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, Greater Anglia, Rayleigh Town Council, and local residents to improve the space and create a facility for the whole community to enjoy.
Year 9 students from Sweyne Park School designed murals for the garden, under the supervision of the artist in residence, Mel Stapleton. The garden also has a bug hotel built by the 1st Rayleigh Cubs, and many plants donated by local people and garden centres.
It was funded by grants totalling £14,850 from Rayleigh Town Council, the Community Rail Network, Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, and Essex County Council Localities Fund gave. £2,000 was also raised by individuals and local businesses from the Rayleigh community.
The garden was officially opened on Thursday, 19th May by Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, and Cllr Lee Scott, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways Maintenance and Sustainable Transport,
Mark Francois commented: “I commend the Friends of Rayleigh Station and all others who have supported this very worthwhile project, to transform this space into an attractive community asset. I am sure that my constituents are grateful for all their efforts, as am I.”
Cllr Lee Scott, said: “The gardens at Rayleigh station are such a wonderful place to visit; my thanks go to all the fantastic volunteers who have put their heart and soul into creating such a great community space.
“Spaces like this really do bring corners of the community together, with input from Sweyne Park School, 1st Rayleigh Cubs and many local residents, local garden centres, and businesses. Thank you to all involved.”
Community Rail Partnership Officer, Catherine Gaywood, said: “This has truly been a community project with so many people offering help and support and we have been delighted to hear the kind and appreciative comments as the garden has developed.
“We hope people will come and enjoy the garden and anyone wishing to volunteer or contribute to keeping it looking fabulous would be very welcome.”
Paul Webster, Community Rail Network Support and development manager, said: “Community Rail Network encourages partnership working to create railway stations which are a gateway to their local community and a vital resource valued by passengers.
“Through the Community Rail Development Fund we are pleased to have been able support the Essex & South Suffolk CRP, Friends of Rayleigh Station, local community groups and the dedication of volunteers who have worked in partnership to create this splendid oasis in a busy railway location. Visitors to the town and the local community can all be proud of this valuable new green and biodiverse space, showcasing local schools artwork and regenerating a once overgrown and forgotten piece of land.
Jonathan Denby, Greater Anglia’s Head of Corporate Affairs, said: “This great new public space further enhances the positive role of the station in the town – and helps to place it at the heart of the community, increasing awareness of the opportunities to catch a train for work, social and leisure opportunities. It’s another excellent example of the real benefits station adoption groups and community rail partnerships bring to our network. It also aligns with our strategy to increase biodiversity at our stations and make them really attractive gateways to their communities, as we play our full part in the region’s decarbonisation plans.”