A FORMER school playground has been transformed into a community garden featuring the original statue installed at a town’s church 160 years ago.

Volunteers have transformed the area behind St Cuthbert’s Centre in Crook into a garden.

It used to be the playground of the Victorian-built school but has been used as a car park since the the old school was converted into a community centre several years ago.

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With funding from Durham County Council the centre’s committee has now completed the garden area which is also the new home for a statue of Mary.

The statue was originally installed in neighbouring St Cuthbert’s Catholic Church in 1854 but for the last few decades has been in storage.

Now she has been repainted and given pride of place in the garden.

Ann Callan from the committee said: “It started with people planting flowers for their loved ones, now it is a community garden for everyone to enjoy.

“We hope people will use it as a place to come and be at peace or a meeting point with their friends.”

The garden was officially opened by Sister Lucy Sacco of the Faithful Companions of Jesus who used to live and work in Crook’s convent.

She was joined by Diocesan Spiritual Adviser Kathryn Turner and Father Gordon Ryan, with about 20 people holding a formal opening service.