Barham Picnic Site Community Project
(formerly the Gipping Valley Visitor Centre)

The Gipping Valley Visitor Centre used to form part of Barham Picnic Site. It was situated just off Pesthouse Lane in Barham, north of Ipswich.  The site has been badly neglected since its closure some 10 years ago and much work will be needed to restore it to its former usage.  Barham Parish Council has indicated their support for what will now be known as the Barham Picnic Site Community Project (BPSCP).  A committee has formed and will seek charitable status.  At a recent parish council meeting, it was agreed that the site will be transferred on a long-term lease to BPSCP.

Brief History
Barham Picnic Site was originally the site of the Barham workhouse.  The oldest part of the workhouse buildings dated back to 1766, some of which were demolished in 1966.

The Army used part of the workhouse during the First World War.  In 1921, it closed as a workhouse and was used as a government training centre where men were trained for the building trade or agriculture, many emigrated to Canada or Australia.  During the Second World War, the grounds and buildings were used to accommodate many Italian prisoners of war.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Suffolk County Council’s planning department was behind the development of the old workhouse grounds to Barham Picnic Site under the management of the Gipping Valley Countryside Warden.  Walks throughout the Gipping Valley area were organised from the site.  The original 2.89 hectares site in the heart of the Gipping Valley consisted of a play area, car park for 100 cars, picnic area with purpose-built tables, toilet facilities, visitor centre, wildlife area and a pond.  To safeguard future use of the site, the Suffolk County Council designated it as a public right of way.

Moving Forward

Barham Picnic Site Community Project intends to restore the area to its original purpose, a recreational and amenity facility for all Barham residents and the wider community.  This will include a play area, picnic site, a new butterfly and wildlife area, a new wildlife and pond, information boards for children, bird boxes, a communal garden and allotments, a large area of grassland, toilet facilities and a cafe.

If you would like more information, please contact the BPSCP through Twitter:  BarhamsNature, Facebook:  Barham Picnic Site Community Project.

Long Distance Footpath
The long distance footpath along the River Gipping is still open and you can download Trust footpath maps from our website.

Needham Lake Visitor Centre
Work to build a new Visitor Centre and Cafe at Needham Lake is underway.  Completion is anticipated early next year.