Villagers launch campaign to buy £550,000 Heacham Park

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An historic parkland where Pocahontas stayed when she visited Norfolk is up for sale – and villagers have launched an ambitious bid to buy it.

Campaigners want to raise up to £550,000 to snap up Heacham Park to preserve one of the village’s last open spaces for future generations.

With a lengthy battle against a large scale housing scheme for the outskirts of Heacham fresh in their minds, villagers fear that if they don’t acquire the land it will be “lost forever” to developers.

And they are hoping to use £385,000 which was set aside in a youth and community trust fund several years ago, but never used, to give themselves a fighting chance.

Retired builder Jimmy Groom, 68, of Poplar Avenue, said: “I’m a Heacham man born and bred and I’ve watched my village be destroyed by boxes of brick and mortar. The village can’t take any more.

“The developers have come in, got their money and gone. The park is the only bit of Heacham we’ve got left.

“The park is up for sale and we’ve formed a committee to try and buy it for everybody, for eternity. We might not ever have this opportunity again and we can’t afford to miss it.”

He said a 10-strong steering group had been formed to oversee a new trust fund to buy the park, and members are seeking the support of the parish council.

Mr Groom said: “If we can use the youth and community money for everyone’s benefit, capitalise on the park being the home of Pocahontas on the Internet, and get our parish council on board, we could do it.”

The council’s chairman, Peter Colvin, said: “At this stage we are aware a number of villagers have expressed an interest in acquiring the park for future generations to enjoy.

“It’s not just the purchase of the land that has to be considered and, at half a million pounds, it is quite expensive. There will also be the ongoing maintenance and for the public to use it health and safety will need to be involved.

“There’s a lot involved with the park too, like lots of covenants, and the vendor wants a percentage of future potential profits, which could be off-putting for any potential purchasers.”

The park was originally the grounds of Heacham Hall, which burned down in the 1940s. It was once home to John Rolfe, who married native American Princess Pocahontas in 1614.

The park includes a three-acre fishing lake called Pocahontas Lake.