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A series of bids for government funding for projects that aim to boost the access to Gillingham’s railway station and enhance the area’s reputation as a tourism and walking destination have been made.

One bid to South Western Railway, who administer the scheme, has come from Gillingham Town Council, Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), the Blackmore Vale Community Rail Partnership and other local groups to ‘promote Gillingham as a destination for walking and exploring the Royal Forest’.

The DWT has already been awarded £61,900 of funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, for the Gillingham Royal Forest project.

A separate bid that will enhance the Gillingham Royal Forest project has been made by Gillingham in Bloom volunteers to provide six micro herbetums – a collection of herbs – to enhance the street scene, provide a ‘sensory experience for all’, provide a food source for pollinations and give an opportunity for the young and disadvantaged to be involved in a community project.

And Dorset Council Transport has applied for funding to promote onward travel from the railway station and improved accessibility from platform 2 at the station.

Clare Ratcliffe, deputy clerk for Gillingham Town Council, said: ‘It is encouraging to hear about creative ideas to improve the town and promote the surrounding area.’

A spokesperson for Blackmore Vale Community Rail Partnership said: ‘Gillingham Station is the gateway to the beautiful countryside of North Dorset and BVCRP is keen to be part of this project to link walks from the station. ‘

‘It’s a celebration of the town’s rich history and the historic importance of the Royal Forest. It also promotes Gillingham as a fantastic ‘Walkers are Welcome’ Town with some of the best maintained and signposted walks in the area.’

The bids are being made South Western Railway (SWR) for the Customer and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF). Nationally this fund – which is financed by the Department of Transport – has £2,650,000 per year, available over the next two years, for projects that will benefit communities or address areas of social need across the rail network. SWR says: ‘We are looking for projects that, having shown a link to the railway, have clear social or community benefit.’

The results of the bids will not be known until early 2020.

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