Celebrating Frome Millennium Green

Jackdaws Songbirds attract a large crowd for their Frome Festival performance on the Millennium Green, July 2007.Frome Millennium Green has been at the heart of our community for 23 years. Before it was created there was no easy route from North Parade down to Rodden Meadow, no spots to sit and enjoy the view of Cley Hill. It was just the abandoned former garden of North Hill House.  

That all changed with the plans to mark the new Millennium. Money from the National Lottery was given to the Countryside Agency, which in turn created 245 Millennium Greens in cities, towns and villages across England. And so Frome gained a new open space, forming as it does an invaluable green corridor and wildlife haven right in the very centre of our town.                                                                                                  

View of the Millennium Green looking across to the entrance from North Parade car park and showing the Commemorative wild cherry trees planted by Frome Rotary.Every Millennium Green is unique. This not only comes down to where they are sited but how they each have their own design inspired by their locale and its history. Frome’s Millennium Green is no different. It is situated on a south-facing slope and is a mixture of grassland, scrub and woodland. A design was chosen that made the site accessible from North Parade, with a viewpoint and places to sit and picnic that made best use of its views of Rodden Meadow and Cley Hill. Other entrance points via newly built steps were put in along the Willow Vale public footpath which leads from the town centre to Wallbridge. The existing woodland was enhanced with new plantings of native species including, Field Maple, Spindle and Wild Service trees as well as an orchard, planted with old West Country varieties of culinary, dessert and cider apples with evocative names like Oaken Pin, Tom Putt and Hoary Morning. Frome Rotary planted three commemorative cherry trees and in the same area below the viewpoint can be found crab apples and pear trees . 

First Cut Theatre Company perform at the Open Day for Frome Millennium Green, 20th May 2000.The official Open Day for Frome’s Millennium Green took place on the 20th of May 2000 and was attended by the Mayor, Philip Whitmarsh. A memorable musical procession was provided by First Cut Theatre Company, starting from the flower-dressed well at St John’s Steps all the way through town to the Millennium Green. This was led by The Green Piper, a comedian-magician who embodied the spirit of the Green and who was attended by young sprites dressed in white and bedecked with wildflowers.  They heralded the start of Spring and blessed the Millennium Green with their presence. There was also a display by the Maids Morris Dancers and a chance for visitors to try their hand at numerous crafts including spinning/weaving, pottery and withy working.  

Frome Millennium Green volunteers Linda, Marjory, Liz, Veryan and Ronan enjoying a break.From the very conception of the project it was important that local artists and craftspeople were involved. They were commissioned to make seating, railings, sculpture and poetry stones. In doing so they were inspired by Somerset’s rich heritage and the abundance of wildlife found on the site. This was also reflected in the materials that were used, with carboniferous limestone from the Torr works used for the base of the viewpoint seat and Portland stone for the impressive Millennium sculpture, carved by Kate Semple (based on a design by local student Martha Kenyon) and also the poetry stones.Sculptor, Anthony Rogers and Millennium Green Trustee, Sue Bucklow take a seat at the new picnic table and benches made possible with a grant from Frome Town Council and Frome Community Lottery, 4th September 2013. The most recent addition was the beautifully carved oak picnic table and benches made by sculptor Anthony Rogers, a replacement for original pieces. Students from St John’s First School helped inspire the nature carvings on the benches after an afternoon spent on the Green with Anthony. In 2002 a guide to the flora and fauna was commissioned and drawn up by Environmental Education Consultant, Raymond Wheeler. A talented illustrator, his Nature Trail  – intended for use by schools in the area – is full of interest, bringing to life the abundance of wildlife found on the Green.   

Children from St John's First School enjoying an outdoor classroom with sculptor, Anthony Rogers, 19th April 2013. I think all of those involved with the many new Millennium Greens did not quite take on board that after their creation the Trust would be caring for them in perpetuity, reliant on fundraising and volunteers and everything that involved. Speaking as a ‘hands on’ Trustee myself, I am forever thankful to fellow Trustees and volunteers who have helped maintain the Green over the last 23 years. In the early days this was the Trust for Conservation Volunteers, Frome Recreation and Open Ground Supporters (FROGS), Sustainable Frome’s Apple Group and more recently Critchill School and Frome Town Council. Old Somerset Russet and Tom Putt apples freshly picked from the Millennium Green Orchard to be used for juicing on Apple Day, 9th October 2015. But we really could not have managed without those individuals who answered the call when a cry for help was put out. Between us all we have planted, pruned, lopped, scythed, raked and litter picked. But the Millennium Green easily reverts to ‘wild’ and maintaining the footpaths and undergrowth became a time consuming activity, which is when Frome Town Council came to the rescue. It is sensible that they now become sole Trustees of Frome Millennium Green and with their resources and skills maintain it as part of the special green corridor at the very heart of our town.  

With special thanks and in memory of John Cheetham, for many years Chair of Frome Millennium Green Trust.  

Sue BucklowMillennium Green Orchard Wassail, January 2011.

If you’d like to learn more about Frome Millennium Green, please visit the exhibition at Frome Town Hall, on until the end of August.