Northern Ireland Flagship The Cornfield Project Officially Launches

Grow Wild content editor Alice Carder reports back from the launch...

The Cornfield was the very first project I visited when I joined Grow Wild as content editor, and as such reserved a special place in my heart. My first visit was almost a year ago, just after The Cornfield won a public vote and were awarded £120,000 to transform an area of unused land between two housing estates in Coleraine; Milburn and Ballysally.

I was touched by the passion and determination of the people I met on that first visit, including Billy, the deputy project lead, who dreamt up the initial idea of creating a must go destination for both communities on the disused land that lay between them. I was excited to see what the site had become…

Billy’s big grin greets me as I arrive. He shows me around the site, which is almost unrecognisable! There are raised beds growing veggies, fruit and of course wild flowers, an outdoor classroom, and handmade benches at the top of the wooded area that look out onto Coleraine and (as I later discover) are perfectly placed to catch the sunset. There’s a woodland walkway, a variety of archways and sculptures and wild flower meadows, bringing large swathes of vibrant colour.

“The Cornfield Project is giving people in the community hope.” Billy says, brilliantly summarising why connecting with our natural environment and having the opportunity to create positive change where we live, is so important.

Project development manager Catherine has not only been busy growing here at the Cornfield, but also in her tummy, now 5 months pregnant. She beams as she hands out hi-vis jackets to the volunteers, who’ve arrived to help out for the big launch party.

“So many people have helped us get to this point and I am so excited to finally open The Cornfield officially and welcome everyone in to enjoy the space,” Catherine tells me “I just hope we manage to get everything done before they arrive!” she laughs.

Later that afternoon The Cornfield is officially opened by Mayoress Alderman Maura Hickey and her adorable helpers, Alexis Burton, Jacob Faulkner and Summer Patterson. 

People begin flooding into The Cornfield, delighting at its transformation and enjoying the various entertainment on offer including bands, a bug trail, a magician, willow weaving and even a mad hatter’s tea party. 

As night falls the fun doesn’t end there, as the outdoor cinema lights up into action and down in the woods moth watching takes place by torch light.

As I look around me at the sea of smiling faces, I overhear a local grandad, who is visiting the site with his granddaughter, ask Brendan, the project lead, what will happen to The Cornfield now.

“I’ve done a bit of gardening in my time, maybe I could come and lend a hand?” He says.

“Yes definitely pal,” Brendan replies “That’s the whole point of The Cornfield being here, so anyone can come and join in with growing and enjoying the space.”

I smile to myself, knowing if the local people here have anything to do with it, The Cornfield will thrive for many years to come. 

For more photos from the day head to our Facebook Page. And stay in touch with The Cornfield Project HERE