John Lennon's Strawberry Field 'sanctuary' to open to the public

The grounds which inspired John Lennon to write Strawberry Fields Forever are being opened to the public.

The Beatles legend used to climb the wall to play in the garden of the Strawberry Field children's home in Woolton, Liverpool, when he was a boy.

The Salvation Army is turning the site into a tourist attraction and youth training centre.

Lennon's sister said the grounds were a "sanctuary" to the legendary musician when he was young.

"I suppose as children we all have somewhere that's a bit ours, a bit special," said Julia Baird, who is honorary president of the project.

"It might be a little hidey-hole under the stairs or it might be up an oak tree but it's somewhere we take ourselves off and that's a special place.

"It seems from the song that this was John's special place."

Tens of thousands of Beatles fans already pose outside the red gates every year, with the Strawberry Field sign behind them, but now they will be able to go inside.

Replica gates have been installed but the originals are on show inside the grounds.

The site has been closed since the children's home shut in 2005.

The new centre will include an exhibition of Lennon's early life and provide training for 18-25-year-olds with learning disabilities.

The famous lyric "it doesn't matter much to me" is on the wall, while in the cafe the phrase "It matters to us" is displayed above videos showing the Salvation Army's work.

A virtual mellotron and a tape-replay keyboard will let visitors recreate the song's distinctive sound and a handwritten early draft of the lyrics is also on display.

Salvation Army territorial commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill said: "John Lennon found sanctuary here as a child and that's exactly what we want to offer by opening the Strawberry Field gates for good."

The song was released in 1967 as a double-A side with Penny Lane and became a favourite with the era's psychedelic movement.