TWO DECADES of improving the jewel in the crown of Bognor Regis are being celebrated by a group of volunteers.
Members of Hotham Park Heritage Trust are marking the anniversary with a private occasion this Sunday. One of the regular music concerts is taking place in the afternoon on the bandstand.
The results of the trust’s work are enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors to the popular open space every year with its mixture of greenery, amenities and attractions. Events such as a carol concert, pictured above, and country fair are always popular.
Trust chairman Rosemary Warren can recall the effort that has been made since 1998 to ensure the legacies of the site’s previous owners, such as Sir Richard Hotham and William Fletcher, remain at the forefront of its heritage.
“Although many of the original committee members are no longer with us, the trust continues to carry forward their ideals. I am grateful for the outstanding support I have received over the years from the trustees and members.
“The trust members get pleasure from seeing the community enjoying the park and are always pleased to welcome new members, who may wish to join in their endeavours to protect the heritage of this unique and beautiful green space for the benefit of future generations.”
The park’s nine hectares date from the 17th century when Sir Richard Hotham, the founder of Bognor, built the house and surrounded it with farmland. The last sole occupants of the property were Mr and Mrs William Fletcher, who lived there until 1941. Their horticultural enthusiasm planted the seeds for today’s park. The site was bought by Bognor Regis’ then council and opened to the public in 1947.
The Great Storm of 1987 decimated the park and the closure of the Rainbow’s End Adventure Park ten years later saw residents determined to ensure the park faced a brighter future.
A committee was formed by the late town environmentalist and eco-warrior, Laurie Barnes. Of its five other members, only Rosemary continues, though another, Derek Frampton, still belongs to the trust. “There was and still is a very clear objective of the trust, which is ‘to promote for the benefit of the community the conservation, protection and improvement of Hotham Park’,” said Rosemary.
This was most spectacularly achieved in 2007 when a £2.2m lottery grant was awarded after a partnership with the park’s owner, Arun District Council. The work carried out can still be appreciated.
“Notably, it has been maintained to the standards expected whilst many other parks which have benefited from lottery funding have falled by the wayside,” she said. “But it is becoming harder. It’s a struggle to get younger members on board. We have an absolute maximum of 20 active members and trustees.”
Despite this, the trust has still invested £100,000-plus into the park. The schemes have included the children’s play area, clock tower and wooden sculptures.