Babington Meadow Penallt
Babington Meadow Recreation Ground Trust
Contact: Alastair Robertson
Babington Meadow, in the centre of Penallt, was donated to the village by the Reverend Babington in the 18thC as part of his educational endowment. A school was built and extended in 1834 and in 1869 a school chapel was added as an extension. The school was taken over by the County Council in 1944 and the Church in Wales adopted the Chapel as St Mary’s Church. The School was closed in the 1980s and handed back to the Babington Trust. The Chapel closed in 2002. The Babington Trust split itself in two to form an Education Trust to benefit village children – from the sale of the school and chapel - and the Recreation Ground Trust that was to find a use for the school playing field.
In 1999 a Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Alastair Robertson and it was agreed that because the land had been gifted to the community of Penallt, then the community should determine how best to use it. A major survey of all villagers was held and the strong consensus was that it should become a village park; that it should be an all-age facility; and that it should make an ecological contribution to the area. Designs were prepared using architects and a local landscape designer and plant experts and arboriculturalists were involved in drawing up a planting schedule. The proposals were put to the community for their approval and subsequently went through due process with the various bodies concerned with planning and the environment.
The next stage was the hands-on process of landforming and planting and all of the help required was locally sourced, and dozens of villagers turned out regularly to help with clearing and planting. Others helped source the necessary funding through fund-raising events and grants from the EU and the County Council were obtained. All this was completed in 2004 and a grand opening went ahead on June 15th that year.
Since 2004 there has been considerable use of the facilities by local people and it is significant that in six years there has been absolutely no vandalism or littering. Regular events are organised to involve local people including touring theatre companies. . This year it will be Shakespeare's As you Like it on August Bank Holiday Monday, 2012. The next big national event is the Art in Penallt event for local artists over 3 days in the Autumn – October 5th-7th. There is still strong community support and further facilities have been added recently including a barbeque and some sculpture based on designs from the local primary school in Trellech.
10 years on, the tree planting is now beginning to show some scale and imported wildflowers and bulbs from specialist suppliers have begun to become naturalised. Maintaining the site in pristine condition but ensuring that it is also an active play and recreation area is a specialist task and the timing of cuts, strimming and pruning is critical to ensure that all the different species in the meadow prosper. It is our biggest cost and absorbs the majority of our fundraising and although TUCC make a small and welcome contribution. We would however prefer to use our funds to support more activities in the meadow such as ecology days for local schools.