Barn volunteers given grant to develop site near Dunmow

Barn fundraising

Barn fundraising - Credit: Archant

A volunteer-led eco-friendly community heritage site, which could begin to generate employment in the area by 2017, will soon look better than ever before after receiving £25,700 in Heritage Lottery Funding.

Local Food (& More!) Co-operative in Church Lane, Little Canfield – which is a social hub for the local community including a Green Café, bike hire, growing programme and Farm Shop – was set up with £30,000 of seed funding from Village SOS in 2012.

Three years later, the co-operative has received a development grant from HLF that will finally help them begin Phase One of a grand two-year improvement plan; making their dreams of restoring an historic barn on their site and expanding the heritage, ecological and educational aspects of their facility a reality.

Project co-ordinator Sally Brady said: “It has been a process – it’s taken a year to do the application for the first phase.

“Now we can start fitting up the volunteers’ shed, developing the outdoor areas and the access path, put in raised beds and put water and electricity on. It will look much more attractive, and the gardens will be even more of a focus.

“We grow as much of our own salad as we can already – we like to grow heritage vegetable plants such as purple carrots to make people aware of their heritage. It isn’t just buildings and wildlife they need to know about, but food.”

The team is now putting together an application for phase two – which is not set in stone.

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Phase two includes the creation of a micro-bakery as well as a fully accessible, multi-functional space for the community and education; with digital interpretation to bring the village’s history to life and showcasing of green energy technologies in the outside areas.

There would be both volunteering and educational opportunities for local people and schoolchildren and, through this, the co-operative hopes to reduce rural isolation. This would also enable them to offer jobs, work experience and training.

The co-operative also aims to continue its work with external groups as part of ongoing plans, such as with the charity Accuro to provide gardening opportunities for people with learning difficulties.

Sally Brady, who says the amount for phase two will be ‘substantial’, added: “We will still be in competition for funding – but we are very optimistic. All being well we would be able to build and launch in 2017.

“There is patience involved, but we have learned in this job that time flies pretty quickly. There is a lot going on and we are just looking forwards.”

For more information on the Local Food (& More!) Co-operative visit