Battle of The Lairs

Pipers Vale

It was during the dark, gloomy days of November back in 1987, that Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council dropped their dock road bombshell and stunned an already disillusioned community. The plan was to build a link road between the Orwell Bridge and the Port of Ipswich on the eastern side of the town. A leaflet sent to a few neighbouring districts, gave little indication as to the extent of environmental damage this would have on the popular Pipers Vale beauty spot.

Pipers Vale- suffered enough already

The Orwell Bridge hadn't long been completed (1983) and had caused considerable damage to the Lairs (to use its more affectionate name) and it sliced through the famous Gainsborough Lane which, at the time, was being denuded

of its magnificent elms. These trees once lined and towered above the entire lane their branches meeting at the sky it seemed as the track led you down to Pond Hall Farm, See Postcards page

Snow lane.jpg (33399 bytes)   Pondhall 1.jpg (32704 bytes)

Locals will remember the Pipers Vale open-air swimming pool. It was built in 1937, and sadly demolished in 1979 to make way for the temporary road built through the Lairs to serve the bridge construction. A great loss to many of an important amenity. So, all in all, with the bridge being built, the loss of those beautiful elms and the scars left from the temporary road, Pipers Vale was left in a sorry state. It was then that many suggestions were made for the area. Should it be turned into a golf course was one idea, another was a car park for visitors to drive down and view the newly built bridge. Can you believe that? The matter then went to public consultation and thankfully, Ipswich Borough Council agreed with the overwhelming public opinion that "Pipers Vale should be left to return to its former natural beauty". This was done, and many trees were planted to hasten the process.

Beyond Belief - Pipers Vale under threat yet again

Moving on from the late 70s and early 80s. Now, bearing in mind all that transpired during that time, the public consultations, promises made in the town's local plan and the thousands of newly planted saplings, it was just three years later  that Pipers Vale was to come under threat again. This time from the dock relief road scheme. It seemed doomed. I felt an intense feeling of impending loss for the Lairs, this my boyhood playground and later the place that fostered my love of nature- was destined to be enveloped with tarmac and concrete. Something had to be done to save this forgotten beauty spot. A campaign was launched and a battle that was to last for six years started in January 1988.

Protest walks, petitions and public opinionProtesters.jpg (49682 bytes)

The first event was to demonstrate public opinion and on Sunday 24th January,1988 a protest walk was called at Pipers Vale.  A staggering number of people turned out and on that winter morning hundreds marched through the Lairs to show their support. This was the first of many events, all which attracted immense support from all corners of Ipswich and beyond. A petition of 2,500 signatures was presented to Ipswich Borough Council on the 1st March 1988. The forgotten beauty spot was well and truly under the spot light and many people were determined that it should be protected.

Ipswich Borough Council made the first move, and in the summer of 1991 they announced their opposition to the dock road. This decision came after a second major protest walk, again, at pipers Vale where well over a thousand people turned out.

.1991 protest walk.jpg (38381 bytes) The campaign grew strong and battled ahead through ups and downs until finally in January 1994, Suffolk County Council effectively dropped the dock road proposal. 

Today, Pipers Vale joins its neighbouring Bridge and Priory Park Woods as one riverside country park. It all seems a far cry from those sombre autumn days back in 1987 when environmental issues didn't seem to evoke much of a stir. Thanks to the people of Ipswich who were stirred, and were willing to fight tirelessly to save Pipers Vale, this town has a beautiful natural park.

Sunset Pipers.jpg (13678 bytes)        


Postcard_Save.jpg (25820 bytes)

                                                                                                                                          Postcard produced and sent to all Borough and County Councillors.

      Long live the Lairs.

  Mick Cooper

Go to The Lairs that was 1974

                    Winter at the Lairs 2009-2010
It's always reassuring to know that no matter what, some things in life you can depend upon.
To me the lairs is a bit like that, always there, even in winter when it can be a cold and foreboding place.
Always there to offer peace of mind, recreation or freedom just to walk and enjoy the open space.

When snow has fallen the lairs is dramatically transformed, from a dark winter landscape, to a
brilliant white uniformed beauty-sharply contrasted with the grey river.
This dormant tree-clad vale is now shrouded in an eerie cloak of silence.
A true winter wonderland.
        Mick Cooper
Dedicated to Mum.
Kathleen Jean Cooper
16th August 1929 - 3rd December 2009
-A life-long lover of the Lairs-



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