Local heroes chosen by the community in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, have been immortalised in steel portraits on National Cycle Network Route 5, honouring their contribution to the town’s past, present and future.
Friends and family of the heroes gathered to unveil the brand new portraits on National Cycle Network Route 5 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Photo: Sustrans.
This is part of a series of portrait benches installed in recognition of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee year.
Choosing the heroes of the local community
Residents across Abingdon were invited to have their say on who they believe has made a positive impact on their local community in the last seven decades, in celebration of the UK’s longest-reigning monarch.
The community chose to honour Abingdon’s past, present, and future.
They selected highly respected local historian Mieneke Cox, and a representative portrait of the invaluable ongoing contribution of local volunteers and community group members, bettering the local environment and helping to protect it for years to come.
Celebrating local historian and her preservation of the town’s history
One of the portraits honours local historian Mieneke Cox who studied history in the Netherlands before moving to Abingdon in 1958.
She was the honorary curator of the Abingdon Museum and a member of the Abingdon Area Archaeology and History Society.
Her research into local archives helped her create inspirational lectures and books on Abingdon.
In 1997, she was presented with the Mayor’s Award for her contributions.
Speaking about the portrait, Pieter Cox, Mieneke’s son, says:
"Mieneke loved telling historic stories, whether in lectures, her books or to groups of schoolchildren in the Museum that she curated.
“She loved digging into the day-to-day activities of her characters, such as where the monks brewed their beer, as well as the larger picture of her beloved, adopted, town.
“She would be thrilled to be here, where weary cyclists and walkers can rest their weary bottoms and legs, or limbs, on their journey.
"I'm delighted that three generations of her family are here today to witness the unveiling of this lovely work of art."
Honouring volunteering to create a healthier and happier Abingdon for years to come
Another portrait represents the many local volunteers and community group members active in Abingdon, looking after the local environment for everyone to enjoy.
They give their time to take local action and tackle the challenges presented by the climate emergency through simple daily acts.
The work of these resident volunteers is helping the community towards carbon neutrality and improving resident wellbeing, waste reduction, and the biodiversity of our green spaces.
Their support and contributions will always be recognised and appreciated.
Speaking about the portrait representing local volunteering, Robin Tucker, member of Abingdon Liveable Streets, Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Travel, and Sustrans Volunteer, said:
“It’s great that Sustrans are celebrating the efforts of local volunteers and community group members with this statue.
“Now more than ever, we need to pull together to tackle the climate emergency and public health challenges, and people in and around Abingdon are a great example of how that happens across the country.
“Our local walking, wheeling and cycling tracks are important to us, and volunteers have been clearing paths from vegetation, repainting signposts, and planning better routes for the future.”
Unveiling the portraits at their new home on the National Cycle Network
On Tuesday 4 July 2023, the figures were unveiled at their new home on National Cycle Network Route 5 at Abbey Meadows, Abingdon.
Joining representatives of Sustrans celebrating the unveiling were friends, family and members of local groups and organisations giving their time to make Abingdon a healthy and happy place to be.
Honouring heroes at the heart of the community
Sarah Leeming, our Director for the south of England, said:
“We’re so pleased to see Mieneke, and local volunteers and community group members, recognised for the excellent contributions they’ve made to honour and protect the past, present and future of Abingdon.
"Much like the National Cycle Network, they are at the heart of the community that voted for them.
“At Sustrans, we’re committed to ensuring that the Network continues to enable as many people as possible to enjoy walking, wheeling and cycling.
“By celebrating the heritage and communities that surround the routes, we can help more people to feel welcome and connect them with local green and public spaces along the way.”
Installed as part of a series of new portrait benches
In total, 30 new life-sized steel figures are being installed across the nation.
They will complement the existing 250 figures which were installed as part of the ‘portrait bench’ campaign over 12 years ago.
Delivered with thanks
The portraits have been designed and fabricated by renowned artists Katy and Nick Hallett.
They were funded by the Department of Transport through our Paths for everyone programme to enhance the National Cycle Network.