Residents of Lilliesleaf can now look forward to having a field day every day of the year after securing the £185,000 needed to buy a plot of land to be turned into a village green.
Lilliesleaf Community Development has been given that money by the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the oldest field in the centre of the village before it was put up for auction.
It now plans to create a village green and wildlife garden, orchard, raised herb and vegetable beds, all-weather pathways, off-road bike track for children and a level area for five-a-side football, bowls, tennis and other sports, as well as a new layby to offer extra parking spaces.
Lilliesleaf, Ashkirk and Midlem Community Council came up with that plan, and its chairwoman, Carolyn Riddell-Carre, said: “Earlier in the autumn, we discovered that the field was due to be auctioned off. We got in touch with the fund and carried out a survey in October to find out how people thought the land should be used.
“What people wanted most was a village green, followed by some wildlife planting and a bit of extra parking.
“The Lilliesleaf Community Development Company members who took this forward worked like Trojans.
“I think everyone would agree that Andrew Illius, who undertook the negotiations over the purchase, was a particular star.
“I also wish to thank David Knight of the Scottish Land Fund, who drove across Scotland late at night to deliver essential documents.
“This purchase has brought out the best in so many people, and the Lilliesleaf Development Company is led by a brilliant team.’
Company chairman Rob Hain said: “We are ecstatic and can’t wait to get started.
“We faced the daunting task of setting up a new company and making an extremely detailed application in a matter of weeks – rather than months – to try to stop this field going to auction.
“The field is in a plum location in the heart of the village, between the two pubs, and close to both the primary school and village hall, so everyone stands to benefit.
“As Lilliesleaf has no public transport, everyone relies on cars, reducing opportunities for social contact through shared activities and interests and increasing the risk of isolation, especially for older people.
“Having a village green with sports facilities will make Lilliesleaf a more attractive place to live in and visit and help local businesses to thrive.”
John Watt, chairman of the Scottish Government fund, said: “The fund helps communities to take greater control of their own futures through ownership of land and assets.
“We were impressed with how the Lilliesleaf Development Company, and the wider community, pulled together to turn their initial idea into reality.
“The enthusiasm, hard work and determination of local people really came through in their application, and I am delighted that they will now be able to take forward their ambitions and exciting plans.”
Scottish Government land reform secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is great news for Lilliesleaf and another good example of the Scottish Government enabling a community to improve facilities and bring to life a variety of projects for the benefit of local people.
“We believe that through community ownership, we can make Scotland’s land and communities stronger, more resilient and more sustainable, and we are doing everything possible to encourage more communities to get involved.”
Company treasurer Jenny Baldwin agreed, saying: “We want to provide a safe green space with a variety of different facilities to encourage community-wide use, interest and enjoyment of the area.
“As was said at a public meeting last month, Lilliesleaf has been here for nearly 1,000 years, and we may have started something tonight which will last for the next 1,000 years.”
The field, east of Muslie Drive, was previously owned by failed Galashiels building firm Murray and Burrell and earmarked for housing use.
Looking ahead to the work now to be done on the plot, Mr Hain added: “Volunteers will do much of the work, including most of the planning and detailed design of the projects, soft landscaping and some hard landscaping and all of the planting.
“Our board members have particular expertise in each area, and new volunteers will be encouraged to sign up to the three special-interest groups to develop the green and its garden, sports facilities and infrastructure.
“A small group of dedicated volunteers will take on basic maintenance of the green and its facilities from Easter onwards.
“We are already preparing bids to the Borders Forest Trust for tree planting and Scottish Borders Council’s localities funding for the parking layby.”