Billy Ellis was born in Liverpool but has lived in Millburn for nearly 20 years with his wife Maureen and their children. Billy can see the Cornfield site from the back of his house and was always frustrated that such a potentially amazing piece of land was left unused and unloved.
Working within the community for over ten years, initially as a volunteer and then as a paid worker, Billy walked through the empty Cornfield site many times on his journey between Millburn and the adjoining housing estate of Ballysally, where his partnership project, Focus on Family is located. As Billy walked the same path, he began to think about the land, to dream of what could be.
What followed was years of planning, first inside Billy’s own head, then tentatively talking to other people in the local area. Many were supportive, some were critical, others laughed it off as simply a pipe-dream, but Billy possesses something that is critical in any successful project of this kind – vision combined with an unerring commitment to make the dreams come true.
As the idea for The Cornfield began to evolve, others became genuinely interested in the project – initially from a community perspective and then from a statutory and wider audience. Plans were developed and enhanced, local agreement reached, relevant partnerships established. And all the while, the driving force, the engine, was still motoring away in the background. Billy’s relentless desire to achieve the vision – not for himself but for the good of the whole community – was infectious and so behind him, came many others, bringing a whole wealth of skills and interests. From this The Cornfield Project was born – a site to bring people together to enjoy the outdoors through sensory gardens, outdoor classrooms, allotments, youth areas and much more – a place full of children’s laughter, wildlife, natural beauty and where there are opportunities for everyone to get involved!
As with all great plans, there needs to be relevant resources to achieve the vision and the project received the massive boost it needed when the Grow Wild Flagship Programme was announced. Here was a concept, a team and a process that fitted perfectly with Billy’s original dream – how to transform areas into amazing natural spaces and importantly, how to get people from everywhere to be a part of it.
What has followed has been over nine months of hard work, idea development, planning, meetings, applications, reviews, communications, campaigning, partnerships, liaison, designing and progress.
And in the middle of it all, one man with a dream – a dream that might just become a reality any day now……..