The Group, originally called “The St Nicholas Church Hill Preservation Group”, was first formed in 1997 because of the building of Basilica and the possible threat of further development on a site which, back in the days of the Basildon Development Corporation was designated a 'Public space’. Since that time we have seen various encroachment on the area which was once part of the 'Plotlands ’
Public indignation was aroused and a meeting was held and fiery talk spoken. We soon discovered that whilst the prospect of development was an issue, there were individuals who had a separate Agenda.
Our Group was formed to establish a barrier however small, with the purpose of tending the site, which had been neglected to a state which might initiate the thought that it was waste ground and therefore ripe for development, especially after, what most residents thought, the encroachment of Basilica.
We started initially to clear the old footpaths, Hilly Lane, Hangman's Alley, Hill Road, Basildon Rise and Crompton Avenue which led to the A127, and all of which were seriously overgrown.
The intention was to become a Charity, which would give the Group more authority. However, we discovered that an annual income of £1000 was required. We were more concerned to raise enough funds to purchase petrol driven tools to help the task in mind. However we held fun days, Bazaars and Open Days to buy hedge trimmers, saws and grass cutters.
We abandoned the idea of becoming a Charity, although we did secure a donation from Basildon Town Centre Management.
We were very grateful for this help and from number of teenagers from Barstable School who came on a School Trip and some of whom returned every Sunday to help until they left School. We have always encouraged children to come and help, because the work that we were doing, we hoped would initiate a pride in their hometown and its environment.
A large Executive Group from Fords gave us their help for a whole weekend and a large skip was filled with all the rubbish that had been dumped in the ditches and hedgerows. Fly tipping was a serious problem back in 2003. However our continued presence every Sunday and the knowledge that eyes were watching deterred the serious offenders. We continue to keep the pathways clear, cut down dead trees and layer hedgerows, which provide a habitat for insects. We have cleared the ponds of suffocating weed and ensured that the crested newts have a suitable environment.
We have helped clear many areas of the Church Land, uncovered graves smothered by brambles and re- erected many gravestones, which had been damaged by vandals or the machine cutters of firm contracted to cut the grass twice a year.