A MASSIVE community effort has seen a small village come together and raise more than £50,000 for a rebuilding project after an arson attack last year.

The pavilion at the Lawrence Kellett playing fields in Dowlish Wake was destroyed in the evil arson attack in October last year which left many of the villages clubs without a home.

After a year of fundraising by the Dowlish Wake Playing Field Trust and the village, building has now started on Project Phoenix.

Richard Handley and Nicky Dodd run the nearby New Inn, which has served as a temporary home for the pavilion committee and also supports fundraising events.

Nicky said: “We had our ten-year anniversary a couple of weeks after the fire and we donated all the money raised to the fund. The last one we did was a barbecue at the end of the summer.

“It is very important and our village is large enough to need a sports pavilion.”

Mike Lane, chairman of the pavilion trust, has thanked all those who have supported the project so far, including the owners of the New Inn.

He said: “From the night of the fire they have been incredibly supportive.

“We have raised an awful lot of money. Locally we have raised £30,000 and we have £25,000 in grants with another application in progress.

“It has shocked me, coming from London, to see the response of the wider community.”

Sue Osbourne is district councillor for the Windwhistle ward, which includes Dowlish Wake, and has been helping the group since the day of the arson attack.

She said: “I was coming back from full council and I had had a text saying it had burnt down. I saw the smoke rising and my first thought was it has got to come back up because the arsonists cannot be allowed to win.

“It has been a huge community effort. It is amazing what this very small community has done. the phoenix is rising from the ashes.

“It is a fantastic initiative showing what you can do when everybody pulls together.”

The project has been a real local effort, with even the designer employed from a nearby village and the constructors coming from Ilminster.

Chris Baranowski, the architect for the project, said: “I’m self employed and local and it is good to work with the community.

“The project is being completed in phases. It will be a building for the next generation. For the external materials we are using some panelling which will last longer than timber.

“The whole pavilion will last for the long term, and it will meet the next generation’s requirements.”

George Senior and Leo Gallagher were involved in building the original pavilion which cost around £55,000 and was put up about 12 years ago.

They said: “When we found out about the fire, we just couldn’t believe it to begin with. It was a total waste.

“We have had to rally everyone around again. It has been hard, as though there was something missing this whole time, all year round.”

Jean Cording and David Heffill are members of the croquet club and David runs the Mahjong club.

Jean said: “The whole thing has been massive. The whole community has really come together including the croquet club and helped make this project successful.

“We are obviously very excited and we are looking forward to it being operational again.

Mr Heffill said: “The Mahjong club only had a week here after moving from Ilminster, but we will definitely be coming back to support it.”

Tim Coombes, from W Coombes & Sons contractors, said: “It is good to finally get the project off the ground.

“First we are building the timber frame, and hope to have that up and in the dry before the wet weather. We hope to be finished in February, but it is weather dependant.

“It is nice to do something close to home and to have connections with the village.

“They have done so well.”