The Covid 19 pandemic in 2020, meant that public consultation of the 5 plan has had to be done in a different way to previous years depending mainly on online response. Fuller details on this and the Plan itself can be obtain by emailing the Contact us Page on this Website. 66 responses were received,( 80 in the previous consultation in 2015.) These revealed The Millennium Green was well used with 25% visiting more than 7 times a week
The Five Year Plan.
The 6 Project selected are noted below in order most favoured by responders. These represent the larger improvements currently envisaged. There will be other smaller changes needed and doubtlessly these six projects may have to change, funds still have to be raised and permissions may need to be sought.
1. Restoration of the entrance to the wood and meadow from Mountfield, including the wall.
The area at the start of the footpath leading up Coneygar Hill to the woodland and the meadow has been used as a holding area for hardcore and gravel, used for the improved footpath which is now complete. It has also become a general ‘dumping area’ for other material and has become very overgrown. In the words of one survey respondent “for too many years it has resembled a builder’s yard and it gives a poor impression of an otherwise pleasant walk”.
The plan is to landscape the area, with new planting and an improved path to connect the driveway from Mountfield to the existing path further up the hill. The wall and gate piers that marked the entrance to Downe Hall will be rebuilt. Although derelict in places, there is enough of the wall remaining to show the original design and this will be used to complete the wall. If appropriate planning permission for this work will be sought.
Work has already started on clearing the rubble, leaving fallen stone with which to repair the wall.
Assistance will be sought from the Town Council to continue to clear the area, prior to replanting the edges of the area and resurfacing the central path.
Much of the material is in place, but funding will be required.
It is hoped this can be a 2021 improvement.
2. Thin sections of the wood by glades to help establish ground flora and diversity.
In many places, the woodland on the hillsides has become overgrown with self seeding species such as Ilex aquifolium (Holly), Fagus sylvatica (Beech) and Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore). In addition non-native plants may have been planted as a Victorian extension of the garden. These include Rhododendron ponticum (Common Rhododendron), Aucuba japonica (Spotted Laurel)and Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry).
In places this has resulted in a dense tree canopy, with little light penetrating to the woodland floor. To promote a more varied flora, it is planned to thin some of the self-seeded species to create glades within the woodland.
All work, however, must recognise the presence of an extensive badger population, as recorded in a survey of 2019. Half of both the active and partially active badger holes have been recorded at the southern end of the west slope of the hill, which is also the steepest part of the hill and it is recommended that this is not touched. Further activity has been recorded at the northern end of the west side, but this is above the woodland path.
If necessary, permission to undertake this work will be obtained.
Initial work will therefore take place at the northern end of the west side of the hill below the footpath. With the loss of Ash throughout the country, it is recognised that existing Sycamore provides a good broad leaf alternative.
Much of this ongoing work will be carried out by volunteers.
3. Restore the Ice House adjacent to the entrance to the woodland path near Mountfield.
The semi-sunken and overgrown building adjacent to the footpath entrance area described in section 1 above is thought to be an Ice House. The first task is to establish that this is indeed the case and research has started, although hampered by the Covid restrictions.
Initial careful clearance of vegetation will then enable the building to be opened up for expert inspection in summer 2021. Great care will be taken with any activity.
Until this inspection can take place it is difficult to know what will be involved with the restoration, but it is suspected that when ice was no longer needed to be stored, the ice well was filled in and the building became a store or larder.
If use as an Ice House can be established, planning permission will be sought for the restoration, together with quotes for the work. The work is likely to be extensive, given the state of the building which has bramble growing through cracks in the wall and the roof.
Much of the work will be undertaken by specialist contractors.
Funding therefore will rely on grants from such bodies as the Heritage Lottery Fund or the Dorset Gardens Trust.
While work can start on the early stages, given the level of preparatory research, planning and funding required it is envisaged this project will not be completed until 2025.
4. Establish a woodland edge, with native shrubs around the meadow.
At present there is a clear distinction between the woodland and the meadow, even to the extent that some tree branches have been cut back to the dividing fence line. This does not occur naturally and it is planned to create an intermediate zone of smaller trees and shrubs within which other flora and fauna can thrive.
In conjunction with Bridport Tree Planting, work has already started on this project. Initially the Town Council have flailed areas of bramble, which were starting to grow out of control. Within part of these flailed areas, a triangular area to the north west of the meadow has been fenced off with stock proof fencing and 80 tree whips have been planted by volunteers. Species include Sorbus acuparia (Rowan), Acer campestre (Field Maple), Prunus avium (Wild Cherry), Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn), Prunus spinosa, (Blackthorn) and Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose).
It is planned to create similar areas along the field margins over the next four years, subject to funding for stock proof fencing and native tree whips.
5. Plant parkland trees, allowing clear views from the top to bottom of the meadow and to the sea.
Many of the trees on the hill were planted as part of the Downe Hall Plantation, a Victorian arboretum in which the owner could show off specimen trees while enjoying a walk. These mature trees are thus at least 150-200 years old, but still have many years to live. It is, however, important to consider succession planting so that future generations may continue to enjoy a parkland environment. In 2005 5 oaks were planted commemorating the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Again with the help of Bridport Tree Planting 2 Quercus robur (English Oak) trees will be planted among existing Oak trees and 3 Oak whips have been planted within bramble clumps that will offer protection as they grow.
With all parkland tree planting it is important to preserve the far reaching views to open countryside and the sea at West Bay.
6. Replant the hedge between the driveway to Mountfield and the lawn.
Over time the hedge, consisting of Aucuba japonica (Spotted Laurel), Laurel nobilis (Bay) and Ilex aquifolium (Holly) has become very overgrown with perennial weeds and with bramble. It is proposed to remove all vegetation, clear the site and replant with native hedging.
Once the existing hedge has been removed it will be necessary to erect a fence to close off the open lawn area, where children often play, from the driveway to Mountfield. This fence will be required until the new hedge is fully grown.
The Town Council will be asked to assist in the hedge removal and fence erection. Funding will be required for materials and for new hedging plants, which will be planted by volunteers. Some initial start has been made by way of a length of wooden railings and beech plantings where the area was just brambles.
In addition to the major projects described it is important to continue with regular day to day work.
We also want to include the potential for education and community involvement. With this in mind it is proposed to meet with both primary and secondary school staff to understand how the Millennium Green could be used for curriculum field studies.
As well as encouraging the use of Mountfield lawn for community activities and events, it is proposed to devise a series of walks for people to enjoy. As well as general rambles it is hoped to enlist the help of local knowledgeable residents to conduct bird watching or meadow flower themed walks.
Community involvement can be furthered by involving areas of the gardens in the NHS Jurassic Coast Primary Care Network and Bridport Medical Centre’s initiative on well being and the development of a ‘care farm’ for vulnerable people. Exploratory discussions will take place on this idea.