A restoration project has been launched to recreate the historic gardens surrounding Elstow Abbey.
The work will include the installation of a Benedictine Garden, a riverside walk and heritage fish ponds.
Founded in 1078, Elstow Abbey is a major visitor attraction in the county. The landscape improvements are anticipated to boost annual footfall to around 12,000 each year.
As well as promoting biodiversity and a wider selection of habitats, the initiative will provide visitors to the Abbey a representative glimpse of the past.
Groundwork East, an environmental and community charity,is spearheading the project with its first landmark a ‘polytunnel’ designed to allow volunteers to grow their own heritage plant species.
Funding has been provided by local firm Mick George Ltd which has provided a £5,540 grant for the site preparation works and materials to erect the impressive shaft, supported by Friends of Elstow Abbey, volunteer groups and local residents.
Phil Paulo, project lead of Groundwork East said: “Our aim is to create better places, improving people’s prospects and promoting greener living and working.
“The tunnel component of this project has certainly achieved that objective.”
One of the other key project partners is East London NHS Foundation Trust, for which the project has been utilised to deliver therapeutic training programmes, supporting the wellbeing of young people diagnosed with mental health support needs.
Jon Stump, finance director at Mick George Ltd said: “We have been involved in many conservation projects in the past, working alongside other respected charities such as RSPB, The Woodland Trust and the National Trust, all of which resulted in a positive outcome.”
Mr Stump added: “Elstow Abbey has a rich heritage, so we’re very pleased to have played our part in improving visitor experiences for generations to come.”
> Elstow is famous as the home of preacher John Bunyan. He was baptised in the font in 1628 and as a child and young man worshipped regularly at the Elstow Abbey Church of St Mary and St Helena which features six original Norman arches.