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18th Oct, 2021

New benches celebrate nature trail's industrial past

Editorial Correspondent 29th Jun, 2021 Updated: 29th Jun, 2021

UNIQUE benches have been installed along the Great Central Walk which runs through Rugby – celebrating both its industrial past as a railway line, and its current status as a nature trail.

Forming the latest part of Rugby Rotary Club’s (RRC) Railway Art Heritage Trail, the benches have been funded by a £5,900 donation from The Rugby Group Benevolent Fund, and designed by Cawston artist Eric Gaskell.

The bench design is in keeping with the Great Central Walk theme, incorporating trains, pedestrians and a cyclist as well as wildlife.

Former Rotarian Eric said: “I was delighted to devise and draw up the design for the new benches.

“The Art Trail is a project that will bring together a variety of age groups, allowing everyone to be part of something that will hopefully be around for many years.”

Rugby Rotarian and Great Central Walk project leader Laurence Wilbraham said: “The installation of these benches is the second part of the Art Trail on the Great Central Walk following the installation of rail track last year.

“They reflect the past and present use of the line, the train going into the night – the past – and walkers, cyclists, trees and wildlife emerging into the daylight – the present.

“The Rotary Club of Rugby is delighted with these benches which I am sure will be of great benefit to users of the walk.”

RRC is working in conjunction with Rugby Borough Council and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) to upgrade the section of the former railway line between Hillmorton Road and Abbey Street. The project recently received the Rotary Club of Great Britain and Ireland Environmental Award.

When the Great Central ceased use as a railway in 1965, the council handed over the lease to WWT which now maintains the section south of Hillmorton Road – but they don’t have the resources to manage the northern section.

The council’s Parks and Grounds Manager Chris Worman said: “The benches provide a place to sit and relax – and the unique design gives users of the Great Central Walk the opportunity to reflect on the past industrial use of the area whilst also recognising the natural environment it is today.”

Rugby Rotary Club is now more than half way through its four-year project to enhance the southern section of the Great Central Walk, to commemorate the club’s upcoming centenary next year.

The wider project includes the removal of undergrowth and trees, improving the Sun Street Play Area, creating a wild play area, providing signage and, subject to community involvement, the provision of a community garden or orchard.

The first phase of the Art Trail, laying nearly 200ft of track, is now complete thanks to the donation of rails and sleepers by Network Rail – and the hard work of Rotary and WWT volunteers, as well as members of the public.

Plans also include interpretation boards, to be designed by local blacksmiths, in a style echoing the traditional British Rail signs and explaining the history of the Great Central Walk.

Laurence added: “To mark our centenary, Rugby Rotary Club members wanted to do something that would raise both the profile of the club and of Rotary, would provide long term benefits for the people of Rugby and involve volunteering and young people as well as doing something environmental.

“This is the largest and longest project we’ve ever been involved in and so far the feedback we’ve been getting from everyone who uses the walk is extremely positive.”

John Brooks, trustee of the Rugby Group Benevolent Fund, said: “We were delighted to support this project with a donation of £5,900 for the provision of these excellent benches which will provide enjoyment to the local community.

“This community has a rich industrious past of which employees of the Rugby Group and their families played their part. Hopefully the benches, and indeed the project, will last for many years and provide a fitting reminder of our past, present and future lives and work.”

Visit www.tinyurl.com/7qodozzh for more information about the Great Central Walk project and Rugby Rotary Club, or to volunteer.

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