A PERSONAL triumph for two campaigners was marked with the official opening of the £400,000 Beckingham Willow Works project.
And tributes were paid to the drive and dedication of Brian Suart and Colin Gibson – as they shared the honour of performing the ceremony.
Clerk Mr Gibson and chairman Mr Suart spearheaded a six-year initiative led by Beckingham-cum-Saundby Parish Council to save the derelict unique building from collapse.
But they shared the privilege of seeing the 120-year-old Gales Barn – to give it the correct title – restored to an active role amid the Beckingham Marshes along Old Trent Road on the River Trent flood plain.
And for both men the occasion was both emotional and satisfying as a multi-agency programme reached completion.
But they never imagined that the only remaining building of its type in the country would be transformed into a modern community and heritage facility.
“Without Colin and I’s teamwork this just wouldn’t have happened,” said Mr Suart.
“It looked like it was all going to stall at one stage, but we succeeded in the end.”
And Mr Gibson acknowledged that the end result was a triumph over adversity.
“We were always hopeful, but it’s remarkable that what we wanted to see in the future has actually been achieved,” he said.
Funding for the major project came from a variety of sources such as WREN, the Heritage Lottery Fund, STAR Energy, Environment Agency, Nottinghamshire County Council, Groundwork and Beckingham-cum-Saundby Parish Council.
Willow works’ owners Groundwork Creswell, Ashfield & Mansfield already have tenants – with the £1.6m Heritage Lottery-funded Trent Vale Landscape Partnership moving in.
The venue now houses exhibition and training rooms, a function room, office space and a permanent ‘home’ for the Beckingham Local History Group.
It spokesman Chris du Feu said: “After six years of hard work and many setbacks it is wonderful to see this unique building restored.
“The standard of refurbishment is much higher than originally envisaged and, along with the community garden and adjacent RSPB Beckingham marshes reserve, it presents wonderful opportunities for environmental education and heritage activities.
“Well done to all concerned – this will prove to be a regional treasure.”
RSPB Beckingham Marshes’ site manager Michael Copleston said the charity was excited about the renovation.
“We will be using this building as part of our project to make the marshes a better environment for a wide variety of wildlife,” he said.
Groundwork chairman Jim Mould described Mr Gibson and Mr Suart as ‘pillars of the local community’.
He said: “We are proud that 10 young people were employed through the Future Jobs Fund to carry out the work – and three have gone on to permanent employment.”