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The time is almost upon us. The opening of the dynamic Beeston Canal Heritage Centre is now only a month away. Well it will be by the time that you are reading this.

For those with a good memory, or with an interest in Beeston’s history, or even both will know that the buildings in question are four weir cottages that had been abandoned for years. Slowly rotting away and disappearing under mounds of ivy and moss.

But things changed in 2015, when the newly formed charity won £687,200 from the Lottery Heritage Fund, and after some more fundraising, project leader Stuart Craven and his team of eager volunteers, began the challenging job of clearing the site of rubbish and vegetation, ready for the rebuilding and restoration of the eighteenth century buildings. The main reconstruction work has been under the expert knowledge and skills of Kirklington based restoration company Bonsors’. Due to the location of the weir cottages, the tons and tons of building materials needed, had to be brought in by barge. Which for a canal heritage centre can’t be a bad thing, as it’s keeping the tradition alive. The whole transformation of the centre has taken some eighteen months.

It will be something very new, very special and unique for the community

When finished, there will be a heritage section, where visitors can learn about the history and stories of the canal and the buildings. Then there will be a retail area and a café, which will serve freshly, cooked hot food. A chef called Brian has recently been recruited to do this.

Upstairs there will be a room called The Weirview, which will provide gallery space and can hold up to sixty people for meetings or events. This will include a small display of ‘Canalside Curiosities’. Artifacts that have been unearthed during the works. A small lift has been installed, for those that can’t manage stairs.

The outside is to be put to good use too, with the creation of a kitchen garden, where local schoolchildren can visit and will be able to see at first hand where fruit and vegetables actually come from. Shatter their illusion that they are grown in plastic bags at the local supermarket. Cycle hire should also be available. A team of volunteers are currently working on creating a lawned seating area and a wildflower border.

I met up with Visitor Operations Manager Jenny Aldridge, who gave me a tour of the site. Work is progressing well with new flooring down, walls painted, new windows installed and the balcony area nearly completed.  Special furniture is currently being constructed by the Derby based East Midlands Wood Recycling Team.  Everything should be finished by the end of May. You can tell how proud and enthusiastic she is about the project. And quite rightly so. It will be something very new, very special and unique for the community. Something to add to the tourist map of the NG9 postcode.

Saturday June the 24th has been billed as the official opening date. This should be in your diaries, as it will be well worth experiencing. The celebrations start at 10:30am, and will go on all afternoon. Shrek the workhorse will be there, together with jazz in the garden and dancing from members of the local Hindu temple. There will also be an exhibition from Beeston Snappers, who have been taking photos throughout the whole process. Stuart then finally gets to see the finished product, after all those years of beavering away raising money and trying to get his dream off the ground. Well done that man.

The centre is looking for volunteers to help run the place. So if you have skills and an interest in administration, education, catering or retail, then Jenny would love to hear from you. Or if you fancy being a co-ordinator, a walk leader or a welcome volunteer, then they are needed too. Training and support are provided. In fact, if you just want to volunteer your time, then give Jenny a call on 07376 378101, and she’ll be very pleased to hear from you.

CDF