Winchester Volunteer Summoned to 'The Tower'

The vision and determination of the woman behind one of Winchester’s newest public spaces - Hyde Abbey Garden – have secured her a place in the national finals of the 2008 Nationwide Community & Heritage Awards.

Barbara Hall, who inspired and championed the Hyde Abbey Garden project, was selected from a long list of candidates across the South East to scoop the regional award in July. She has now been summoned for the national finals at the Tower of London on 11 November 2008.

For the last eight years, Barbara has dedicated her time and efforts towards creating the garden that marks the east end of Hyde Abbey Church - the last known burial place of King Alfred the Great.

Along with other local residents, she formed the Friends of Hyde Abbey Garden - leading the project and helping to raise over £250,000 to complete the design.  The garden was fully completed last October when Alan Tichmarsh turned on the lights which adorn the holly columns. The event marked the result of all the hard effort that had gone into the garden.

Barbara said:

“It was a heart-warming occasion for the Friends and a rewarding moment for all their hard work and efforts over several years.  It finally bought to life Kim Wilkie’s dignified and imaginative landscape design which had inspired them”.

All the winners of the regional Community & Heritage Awards were selected because of their outstanding voluntary work and contribution to their local communities and to their local heritage. The finalists were presented with an award, vouchers to the value of £250, and a donation of £500 to a charity or cause of their choice. In Barbara’s case, the local cause was never in question – Hyde Abbey Garden!  Typically generous, she has used the vouchers to buy gifts for her grandchildren to show her appreciation for the continued support of her family.

She said:

“As well as the Friends, the Hampshire Gardens Trust, the City Council and many, many others, the support and encouragement of my family was invaluable.  It gave me great pleasure to be able to add some extra fun to their summer holidays.  The whole process of creating the garden has been a unique experience and a reward in itself”.

Barbara, who won the ‘individual’ category of the heritage awards, goes on to the national finals in November along with five other category winners from the region - including three others from Hampshire - and regional finalists from elsewhere in the UK.   National winners will each be presented with an award of £500 of vouchers and a £2,500 donation to the charity or cause of their choice.

Caroline Hallatt, Nationwide's head of community and environmental affairs, said:

“We are delighted to recognise and reward people who voluntarily give up their time and energy to support their local community and heritage sites.  All the winners have shown outstanding dedication to their local communities and are an inspiration to others. They show what can be achieved if you feel passionately about a cause.  I hope these awards not only act as encouragement for people who are already active volunteers, but also inspire others to join in and make a difference.”

Cllr Patricia Stallard, Winchester City Council’s champion for the historic environment, added:

“Barbara is already something of a local celebrity. We are so pleased to have been able to support her nomination for this award, which has brought wider recognition both for her own achievements and for Winchester as a historic city. The Winchester District wouldn’t be the place it is without its incredible network of volunteers."