WITH the start of the new year comes the beginning of a renewed fund-raising drive to save Evesham’s iconic Abbey Bell Tower.

The appeal needs to raise £500,000 to repair and conserve the tower, built in 1531 by Abbot Clement Lichfield.

Since it began in June last year it has been championed by the Journal, with kindhearted readers raising about £10,000 of the £80,000 already secured.

And as appeal organisers look to step up the good work in 2014, the year’s fund-raising efforts are already well underway.

On Sunday, some hardy souls and their dogs braved the elements with a sponsored walk.

Their efforts raised £600 for the campaign. Fundraising committee chairman Sue Ablett, whose dog, Spike, led the way, said she was delighted.

“It was a nice event and it all helps,” she said. “We had to change the route of the walk as the path was underwater.

Spike took his role as leader very seriously.”

Dr Ablett said the appeal had now reached an exciting stage after securing lottery funding. “We have secured Heritage Lottery Grant funding, which is a fantastic achievement,” she said.

“This has enabled us to commit now to the development phase of the project and we have appointed the firm of architects, Acanthus Clews.”

But that progress brings challenges – with the appeal needing to raise substantially more funds this year to keep pace.

“Our challenge now is to raise the necessary funds to match the second phase of Heritage Lottery funding, which is due in September,”

said Dr Ablett. “That means that we need to raise a further £160,000 in the coming year. It’s a daunting task but one that we feel can be achieved. We’ve had some great support.”

A number of events are already planned, including a quiz night, concerts, an Easter bonnet parade and a celidh.

The appeal will also be the major beneficiary of the July Evesham Vale 10k Run, while the Evesham Bell Tower Steam and Vintage Rally will be another major fund-raiser.

Dr Ablett said strong support will be needed if the appeal is to succeed.

“If we are to achieve our goal, we need help,” she said.

“The tower isn’t falling down but it does need very serious conservation work to preserve it for future generations, that must be part of our legacy.”

Anyone who would like to help should contact Dr Ablett at sueablett1@btinternet.com or 07871285606 or visit the appeal website at eveshambelltower.org.uk.