National recognition for Essex community rail project

Published on: Tuesday, 30 January 2024
Last updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2024

The official opening of the wildlife garden at Wrabness rail station, March 2023

Above: The official opening of the wildlife garden at Wrabness rail station, March 2023. Credit: ESSCRP

The creation of a new wildlife garden at Wrabness rail station, Essex, has been shortlisted for a national award.

The Essex & South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership worked with local residents, station adopter volunteers, the Essex Path to Prosperity Project, Community Rail Network, the Bee Friendly Trust, and Greater Anglia to create a new wildlife area next to the station.

The project has now made the shortlist for the ‘Most Enhanced Railway Spaces’ Award at the national Community Rail Awards, organised by the Community Rail Network.

Approximately a quarter of an acre of overgrown scrubland where the station master’s house once stood has been transformed into a wildlife and visitor-friendly garden and was officially opened by Julia Prigg BEM, the station adopter, on 25 March 2023, with residents, guests and project partners in attendance.

The focus of the garden is to support and encourage wildlife and includes bug hotels, bird boxes - including two special robin boxes, a pond for frogs and a hibernaculum built for newts, lizards, and toads.

Two large planters full of bee-friendly forage greet visitors at the front of the garden, with a path leading to seats constructed from railway sleepers on the stumps of ancient trees.

A third planter displays a collage of ceramic tiles created by residents of Acorn Village, a residential home for adults with learning disabilities, and there are specially commissioned artworks around the garden including metal sculptures, relief wooden carvings of bees, wooden sculptures, and a large bird bath on a decorated pedestal.

In addition, a herb bed has been created by the entrance to the garden from which visitors, rail travellers and the community are encouraged to help themselves. The entire area has also been sown with native wildflower seeds.

A further initiative has seen the Bee Friendly Trust work with 6-8 year olds at Wix & Wrabness Primary School in the project, delivering ‘pollination workshops’ and facilitating the pupils to paint posters which will be displayed around the garden. One of the posters has been chosen by the children to be featured on a T-shirt produced to celebrate the project.

Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership Engagement Officer, Jayne Sumner, said,

“Creating the wildlife garden at Wrabness has been a fantastic collaborative project and we are so excited for rail passengers and the community to come and see it and enjoy watching it develop over the coming months. We are very grateful to all the partners who made it possible with their generous support.

“Our aim is to build positive relationships and mutually beneficial links between rail branch lines in Essex and the communities they serve so we were absolutely delighted to see our efforts and the benefits they have delivered, nominated for this national award.”

Alan Neville, Greater Anglia’s Customer and Community Engagement Manager, said,

“We are really proud of our community rail partnerships and amazing station adopters and are thrilled that the work that they do across the region to support communities, promote sustainable travel and help our region’s branch lines to thrive has been shortlisted at the Community Rail Awards.”

The Community Rail Awards, now in their 19th year, recognise the important work carried out by an army of dedicated individuals, often volunteers, who work across Britain’s rail network to make stations welcoming spaces for passengers and visitors alike. Alongside this, many of the groups carry out vital community engagement work with schools, colleges, and other local groups to help educate and secure passengers of the future, which is critical to ensuring railways are an inclusive, sustainable, healthy way to travel.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Swansea on 18 March 2024.