AN area of Green Belt on the edge of St Albans became the focus of media attention today as the first phase of the multi-million pound Butterfly World project was unveiled.

The world's largest enclosed butterfly park and research centre, currently taking shape on 27-acres of protected land in Miriam Lane, Chiswell Green, opened its doors to visitors for the first time today to showcase Future Gardens - its first major attraction.

The site features 12 contemporary gardens - each offering an entirely unique landscape for visitors to enjoy - designed by both experienced and aspiring horticulturalists.

Among them is a commemorative garden for Harry Mills, who died of meningitis two years ago, aged 11.

His parents, Richard and Judi, along with sister Marie, 22, were delighted to see Harry's garden in its completed form at the launch today.

His mother Judi said the plot, which aims to raise awareness of the killer disease, captures both Harry's "bright" and "fun" personality, as well as his love of sport.

Harry, whose passions are evident in every corner of the colourful plot, played football rugby, tennis and cricket for teams in his home town of Marlow.

Glass footballs, rugby posts, cricket-inspired straw bales and tennis nets are among the sporting references built into the green space by designer Fern Alder.

Sunflowers and sweet peas, grown by Harry's school friends, are also a prominent feature in the memorial garden as well as an area for hedgehogs and a giant grass model of the spiky creature.

The family wanted to mark the strange appearance of one of the prickly critters which turned up on their doorstep on the night Harry died.

Judi said: "It is a garden created with love, I think it's just phenomenal. It is so much better than the vision I had of it."

Her husband Richard added: "Harry's not here any more, we can't change that, but it's so nice to have him remembered in such a nice way - in a garden like this with all these people.

"He would have loved this, the sports theme in particular.

"He used to love to kick his football against all the flowers in the garden. After Harry died all the flowers in the garden began to wither and we started to find all his lost footballs everywhere.

"There's so much about Harry in this garden, it's almost surreal. It's all been done in the spirit of Harry, he had such a strong spirit."

Harry's family have fetched more than £86,000 for The Meningitis Research Foundation and The Youth Sport Trust since the youngster died.

The £27 million conservation project backed by Professor David Bellamy and actress Emilia Fox, who attended today's launch, will soon become home to a tropical rainforest, 100,000 butterflies and other colourful creatures.

To find out more about the garden or the charities involved visit

  • Click the related link below to view our picture gallery from today's launch.