Aftermath of Great Cornard centre gutted in blaze
A fierce blaze has reduced a visitor and education centre on the banks of the River Stour to ash and blackened wood.
The fire gutted large parts of the building – owned by the River Stour Trust – in Dove House Meadow in Great Cornard at the weekend.
Neighbours close to the site were instructed to close their windows as 37 firefighters tackled the fire.
More than six crews were called shortly before 1.40am, and remained at the scene for five hours.
The cause of the blaze, which caused extensive damage to the building, is still being determined.
It came on the eve of one of the charity’s biggest events, Sudbury to the Sea, which will still go ahead this weekend, despite the major set back.
Crucial planning documents for the big event had been stored at the site.
“A lot of the paperwork was there, but we managed to recover it,” said charity secretary Keith Grinsted, who added that preparations for the two-day event, which will see 300 canoes set off on the River Stour from Sudbury, are well under way.
“We may have lost everything. We were worried it was going to have an impact, but we hope to have everything covered.”
While the full extent of the fire is investigated, the organisation has relocated to The Granary in Quay Lane, Sudbury, as a temporary measure.
The fire has put a dampener on the charity’s 50th anniversary, which was celebrated earlier this year, but Mr Grinsted said he was pleased the trust had continued to operate.
“The main thing is the charity is still up and running,” he said.
A spokesman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said: “A call was received at 1.37am on Saturday to report a fire at the River Stour Trust visitor and education centre at Dove House Meadow in Great Cornard.
“The fire at the two-storey wooden building was extinguished by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, with assistance from our Essex colleagues.
“The incident was attended by six crews. Relief engines were provided during the process, until a stop was called at 7.05am.
“The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.”