Last Updated: 27 Sep 2017 3:10pm
Visitors approaching Tonbridge from the Quarry Hill Road (south) direction will soon be treated to an 'Olympic-themed' welcome as work begins to transform a large raised flower bed at this key entrance to the town.
Businesses in the Quarry Hill area have joined forces with local artist Guy Portelli and Tonbridge business Mary Mary Creates Gardens to create a unique area that is sure to delight residents and visitors alike.
The raised planter has already been cleared of existing shrubs and weeds and will be transformed during the coming weeks. The centrepiece of the new scheme will be a statue of double Olympic gold medallist, Dame Kelly Holmes. The statue has been made and donated by Guy Portelli and will be mounted on a plinth incorporating the artwork of children from The Slade Primary School, Woodlands Primary School and Sussex Road Community Primary School. The statue will be surrounded by a wildflower meadow and three small trees, which will be black, white and gold, mirroring the title of Kelly's autobiography. All the landscaping and planting will be carried out by Mary Mary Creates Gardens free of charge (apart from the cost of the materials).
The cost of the work (approximately £7,500) has been met by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council's Local Centres' Project, which has enabled the Council to work with traders across the borough to deliver environmental projects. The funding was given to the Borough Council from the Government's High Street Innovation Fund.
The transformed raised flower bed will be officially opened by Dame Kelly Holmes, once the work has been completed, in mid-October. Dame Kelly, who can often be seen in her home village of Hildenborough, recently celebrated the 13th anniversary of her 2004 double Olympic gold medal-winning success and the subsequent Tonbridge homecoming parade, where she was greeted by around 80,000 people. In 2012 Kelly carried the Olympic torch through Tonbridge and then brought the Commonwealth baton to the town in 2014. She continues to do much to help the community and local schools and is an Honorary Freeman of the borough of Tonbridge and Malling.
Nicolas Heslop, Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, says: "It's great to see local traders working together to improve an area for the benefit of local people. I'd like to say a big thank you to Guy Portelli for creating the statue of Dame Kelly and for his work to inspire local children to take part in the project with their artwork. Many thanks also to Mary Mary Creates Gardens and all the other traders for volunteering their time and expertise to make the scheme a reality. I look forward to seeing the 'Olympic' transformation!"
Guy Portelli adds: "It's always a pleasure to work with young people on a new art project but the enthusiasm and excellent designs of the children taking part in this particular scheme have made it one of the best yet! I just hope Dame Kelly Holmes will be pleased with the statue I have created!"
The newly renovated raised flower bed will be maintained by Kent County Council, which owns the planter.