Our Green at East Ilsley was one of over 250 such schemes countrywide set up to mark the Millennium and to provide ‘open breathing spaces’ in perpetuity for the benefit of local inhabitants. Mainly funded by the Countryside Agency, under the slogan “Access for All”, they were intended to provide free unrestricted access to green spaces for local recreation and exercise. The land itself is on a 999 year lease, and cannot be built upon. It is looked after by the Millennium Green Trust, and its elected Trustees.
In East Ilsley, The Green was created following the efforts of a group of local inhabitants who organised the raising of funds to purchase the land and drew up a Trust Deed document to which they put their signatures, and so became the original trustees. The Millennium Green Trust is an independent charity responsible to the Charity Commission. Under the terms of the Trust Deed, there is free unrestricted access to The Green at all times. The Green is situated to the south of the village between the slip road to the A34 and the recreation ground. There is an entrance at either end.
Millennium Green Features
On a cold damp morning towards the end of 1999, a contingent of about a dozen soldiers of the 42 Survey Engineering Group (Hermitage), arrived at the open area which was later to become East Ilsley Millennium Green, with lorries, low-loaders, and equipment necessary for moving very heavy loads. They had collected 34 large sarsen stones from a field near to Ashdown House, which is between Lambourn and Ashbury, on behalf of the trustees, which they proceeded to put into positions around the green under the direction of the trustees.
Some of the stones were intended to serve as seating for visitors, while others, which had dips and hollows in them, would hopefully provide birds with drinking pools. It was hoped that children would enjoy climbing on, and playing around the stones.
The placing of the stones was not random. The two large stones (one weighing several tons) at the entrance from the recreation ground were specifically spaced to prevent vehicular access, and a group on the path to the left were arranged around a central stone so that children could sit around a teacher.
Stepping Stone Snail
Early in 2000, it was decided to create a stepping stone feature for the Green. The design was in the form of a giant snail. 82 young children, resident in East Ilsley at the time, each took off a shoe and a sock and impressed a bare footprint into soft cement on top of a bucket sized lump of concrete, and their names were impressed at the same time. The youngest of these children was a baby at the time, the eldest about twelve or thirteen years old. They would now all be adults. This group of circular ‘stones’ was then set into the turf, to form of the spiral shell and the body of a snail. Over time, some have been damaged by grass cutting machinery, and many of them are partly hidden by grass and moss.
Other features include a sheep made from flints, a sundial, picnic tables, and a wooded area.