Help Spread The Magic in Coleraine

Billy Ellis had been staring at the unused, unloved Cornfield site from the back of his house, which he shares with his wife and children, for over 10 years. As he stared he wondered, with frustration, why such a potentially amazing piece of land had not been put to better use. 

Working within the community, initially as a volunteer and then as a paid worker, Billy walked through the empty Cornfield site many times on his journey between Millburn and the adjoining housing estate of Ballysally, where his partnership project, Focus on Family is located. As Billy walked the same path, he began to think about the land, to dream of what could be.

So Billy began to plan, first inside his own head, then tentatively talking to others. Many were supportive, some were critical, others even laughed it off as nothing more than a pipe-dream. But Billy possessed a secret weapon… an unerring determination to make dreams come true. 

Billy’s relentless desire to achieve the vision – not for himself but for the good of the whole community – was infectious and so behind him, came many others, bringing a whole wealth of skills and interests. From this The Cornfield Project was born – a site to bring people together to enjoy the outdoors through sensory gardens, outdoor classrooms, allotments, youth areas and much more.

As with all great plans, relevant resources are needed to achieve the vision and the project received the massive boost it needed when the Grow Wild Flagship Programme was announced. “Here is a concept, a team and a process that fit perfectly with my original dream,” Billy thought – “how to transform areas into amazing natural spaces and most importantly, how to get people from everywhere to be a part of it.”

And so began nine months of hard work, idea development, planning, meetings, applications, reviews, communications, campaigning, partnerships, liaison, designing and progress. And in the middle of it all, one man with a dream – a dream that Billy hopes might just become a reality any day now…With a little bit of magic. 

“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl

Children from Millburn and Ballysally Primary Schools have created a ‘Fairyfield’ at the Cornfield - little doors and windows of fairy houses, ‘berry-burst’ juice bottles, tiny washing lines, fairy flags and fantastical colour and magic. There are fairy shops, a fairy school, a fairy hospital and a fairy police station!
Brendan, a community outreach worker in Milburn and project lead on the Cornfield Project took his children to explore the fairyfield and ended up discovering something himself. “For the first time, I truly realised what The Cornfield Project is all about - yes it’s about colour and life and beautiful flowers and the wonder of nature. Yes, it will provide activities for people who otherwise might not have much to do. Yes it will make a difference for our area, not just in the next few years, but for generations to come, but it’s about something else too. 

“I saw something in my children’s eyes as they ran through the trees, finding new fairy adventures at every turn - I saw magic being created in their little minds. It was only then that I truly realised why we’re doing all this… it’s about magic. 

“If we can work together to bridge communities as one, this can be replicated right across this country”. 

The Cornfield Project is one of three projects competing to become the Grow Wild flagship site for Northern Ireland. The winner will receive £120,000 to realise their vision. Voting is now closed and the winner will be announced very shorlty. Read more about our finalists HERE.