Technically the birthday of the Glebe Meadow is January as the purchase was completed in January 2012. However, February that year saw the planting of the orchard, now the Jubilee Orchard, so this month we are celebrating that.
In the summer of 2010 an area of rough pasture of around 2 acres in the centre of Starston came on the market. At one time it was church land but for some years it had been in private ownership and so was not accessible to the public. When Starston produced its Parish Plan in 2008 a majority of people in the village said that they would like a village green or an open space or community woodland. This meadow seemed the answer but the money would have to be found.
And so the fund raising began. We soon learned that you cannot get a grant to buy a “field” but nevertheless we managed to raise £11,000 from within the village, with contributions from businesses which had connections to Starston. For a village as small as ours to raise this sum was no mean achievement but now the Glebe Meadow truly belongs to Starston and is managed by the Starston Jubilee Hall Trust, the charity which was set up in 1999 to manage the village hall.
Once we were the owners we could apply for grants and by early 2012 we had obtained two. With this money we had tree work done, both for safety reasons and to open up the light flow onto the Beck, we had a footbridge constructed to give a second point of access to the meadow, we fenced the meadow off from neighbouring farm land and planted around 800 hedging plants to gap up the hedge along the road side.
We also planted an orchard of 26 fruit trees, mostly traditional East Anglian varieties, including apple, pear, cherry, quince, medlar, plum and damson. We planned the layout carefully so the trees had plenty of space to grow. Numbered stakes were put where the trees needed to go, the bare root saplings were all numbered and, one cold day in February 2012, village residents, especially families, were invited to come and plant a tree.
The families – and many of the planters were families – chose a tree, found the stake that corresponded with its number, dug a hole and planted “their” tree. Around 70 people came to the meadow that day and this event confirmed that the meadow is a community owned asset. As time has passed many families have returned year on year to see how “their” tree is doing.
There have been a couple of casualties but most of the trees are doing well and now, eight years on they are bearing fruit. Christina Greathead’s Damson Jam made from fruit collected from the orchard in the summer of 2019 is a real treat.
The meadow was formally opened on Sunday 22nd April 2012 by Professor Tim O’Riordan OBE, Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk, President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Norfolk) and Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. In his speech Professor O’Riordan said: “With this meadow you have created a little piece of peace for everyone to enjoy”.
Later that summer a celebration for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was held on the Glebe Meadow and the orchard itself was formally opened by Richard Taylor and Harry Colman representing the oldest and youngest residents of the village. Then in April 2017 there was a further ceremony when the beautiful curved wooden bench built by Richard Hitchman was placed in the centre of the orchard.
The Glebe Meadow is maintained by a team of volunteers led by Peter Grimble and since 2012 many other improvements have been made. Nesting boxes, bat boxes and bee hives have been installed – Starston honey has become very popular – and later this year Starston Youth Club will be building a bug hotel. The intention has always been to create a community wildlife meadow (not “a park” as one volunteer put it).
We are very proud of our achievement. It is a true community project and the commitment of so many people in the village – a commitment of both time and money – has made sure that this meadow in the centre of Starston is now preserved for us and for future generations.
Professor Tim O’Riordan’s comment that the meadow is “a little piece of peace for everyone to enjoy” has certainly come true.
The Glebe Meadow is a very peaceful place and it is ours.