Farmer needs help to save picnic site

John Browning owns Ramparts Fields picnic site which was leased by the county council until April 1. He wants to keep it open to the public but needs volunteers to help.
John Browning owns Ramparts Fields picnic site which was leased by the county council until April 1. He wants to keep it open to the public but needs volunteers to help.
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A RETIRED farmer is hoping the community will help him to keep a popular picnic site open to the public.

Ramparts Fields, beside the A1101 between Icklingham and Lackford, is a 14-acre part of John Browning’s 600 acre farm but was leased by Suffolk County Council as a picnic site, with a car park, from the early 1970s until March 31 this year.

It has now reverted to Mr Browning’s ownership, with the exception of three acres known as the Town Pit, which belongs to Icklingham Parish Council and was where it once dug gravel for surfacing local roads and tracks.

Mr Browning wants to form a Friends of Ramparts Field to work with him to maintain the site so it can be kept open for the public.

“I don’t wish to become a park ranger at my time of life,” he said. “But I want to keep it open as a picnic site.

“There’s litter picking, there’s transferring the bin bags to the wheelie bin for the council to empty – it’s not a huge task if everyone mucks in. I will meet the cost of bin emptying.”

He said St Edmundsbury Borough Council has told him it will charge £9 a week to empty the bins.

Mr Browning said: “I want it to stay open because it is appreciated by a number of people. The alternative if I can’t get it managed by goodwill and determination is that it will close down.”

He wants anyone interested in helping to care for the site to go to a meeting in the car park beside the junction of the A1101 and West Stow road on May 12 at 3pm,

Suffolk County Council has a policy of transferring the ownership of parks and recreation sites to community groups. A spokesman said that in the case of Ramparts Field, the lease had come to and end so was not renewed.

The spokesman said: “We understand the owner is planning to keep it for public access – that’s good news.”

John Barker, chairman of Icklingham Parish Council, said the council could not take on any costs associated with keeping the field open but he added: “The idea of Ramparts Fields being open would appeal to most people.”

It will be discussed at a parish meeting on May 24.

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said it would support volunteers with equipment for a litter pick.