One of the most popular places in the village, since the beginning of lockdown, has been the Millennium Park, a beautiful green space on Fishpool Way, that was developed to mark the turn of the millennium.
During lockdown, working people had more time at home, children were off school and many used the permitted daily exercise window to explore the village, and that included Millennium Park.
Families on wheels used the cycle path, dogs and owners clocked up steps, teens met up for socially-distanced get-togethers and friends sat at opposite ends of benches chatting. A great point of interest, of course, was the sundial, one of only four of its scale in the country. The park was also quiet enough at certain times of the day for the medically vulnerable to keep a distance from others. It became a popular spot.
Residents Graham and Sue Hobbs, relative newcomers to the village, said that prior to lockdown, they had visited the park infrequently and had seldom seen many people there. However, in lockdown and since, it had been well visited, while keeping a safe distance was still possible.
In a letter to Barrow Voice, they expressed their thanks to those who conceived the idea of a park and brought it to a successful conclusion, and suggested that other newcomers to the village might like to know how it came about.
So, how did the park come into being?
In 1998, members of the Millennium Group, Mike Morley, Drew Kirby, Lilian Middleton, Mike Neale, Sue and Ted Rodgers, Betty Turner and Jean King were asked to put together a week of events for the village, starting with a New Year’s Eve ball. They organised 15 events throughout the year and produced a book and a calendar. At the end of the year they had £12 000 in hand.
“It was not our intention to raise money, we just wanted to mark the occasion and have a good time, but we had money over and we needed to allocate it to a long-term project that would benefit the whole community,” says Mike Morley, the group’s chairman. “It would have been easier to put a Millennium Clock in the village, but not us - we were looking at something more ambitious!”
At that time, the Parish Council was trying to secure a five-acre plot that the developers of the Fishpool Way estate had handed to Charnwood Borough Council. The Millennium Group thought they could put a time zone on it. The Parish Council took ownership of the land in 2002 and the group was given the green light to start.
The land was fenced and extensive tree planting was carried out by the Borough Council prior to handover.
In March 2003, village organisations were involved in a Community Tree Planting Day. A perimeter footpath was laid in June and in October, small trial patches of native daffodils, bluebells, primroses, cowslips, wood anemones and snowdrops were planted to see how successful they would be.
“We wanted the park to have a sundial but we realised that none of us knew anything about sundials!” recalls Mike. So, the group turned to Patrick Powers, secretary of the British Sundial Association, who came to Barrow on a few occasions to give expert advice. He determined the angle of the gnomon, the height, the direction and the position of the hour markers through many calculations involving the sun. It is 6.75 metres of stainless steel and is designed to withstand wind, weather and people climbing on it.
The gnomon is surrounded by a cobbled chapter ring, set with 16 granite blocks, each weighing up to two tonnes, sourced from the quarry at Mountsorrel, which mark the time from 5am to 8pm.
Sundials show the time by the sun, which does not match the time shown on a watch or phone. Clocks cannot cope with the sun time, and instead show an average or mean time for the country concerned. In the UK, time is related to the longitude of Greenwich and our average time is called Greenwich Mean Time.
There were celebrations when Millennium Park and the Millennium Sundial were complete and they were officially opened by HM Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Lady Gretton, on 3 July, 2004.
Mike is delighted that the park is a place of refuge and fun for residents, both young and old.
“Some people didn’t like children climbing on the sundial, but that's exactly what I would have done as a child,” he laughs.