Wonford in Bloom, Exeter
South West in Bloom is supported by the Royal Horticultural Society and is one of eighteen regional/national competitions that make up Britain in Bloom, the biggest horticultural campaign in Europe. The aim of the communities that take part each year is to improve and regenerate local environments through landscaping, conservation and recycling projects.
Earlier this year I began volunteering with a local gardening group. When I joined we formally named ourselves ‘Wonford Planters’; Wonford being the area of Exeter in which we live; and I became the ‘Organiser’ of the group.
The estate where I live is partly social housing and partly owned. Cuts in public funding have resulted in areas of green spaces around the estate becoming overgrown and unsightly. Our aim is to bring the community together by gardening and improving these spaces for the benefit of Wonford residents. One of these areas is a mini-roundabout close to where I live. It had become extremely overgrown and overrun with brambles and nettles, generally not a nice space to look at but is one of the main routes for residents and dog-walkers from the estate to the valley fields below.
On the advice of our local Community Organiser, Sue, I contacted our local PCSO to enlist the help of the Exeter Community Police Cadets and on 2 April they came along to help begin the work.
That got us off to a good start and we continued throughout May and June, working towards our South West in Bloom entry for Wonford. The roundabout would be one part of the route through the estate, encompassing the local school, children’s nursery and sheltered housing. Our ‘pièce de résistance’ was a local resident whose garden comprised of a selection of magnificent cacti……
Alcoa Howmet is an American engineering company and we have a depot in Exeter. Sue had advised me that Alcoa will provide community funding upon evidence of a suitable event, which requires five Aloca employees to participate in a voluntary exercise relevant to the funding application. I organised the event on a Saturday in June and this consisted of persuading five local guys to leave the safety of the local pub and clear off a space of weedy ground outside our local shop. It was an extremely fun morning, and a lot of hard work for them. They did an amazing job.
Deed done, I duly completed the Silicon Valley Community Foundation application form and sent this off together with photos and a written statement. Being an American form it included having to agree to the ‘Compliance with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’, and ‘Compliance with USA Patriot Act’! We were granted funds of just over £2,000.
Bloom Judging Day, 4 July
We’d worked as hard as we could to get the roundabout looking its best. The RHS judge was due at 2.30pm so the morning consisted of walking the judging route through the estate litter-picking on the way; including me jumping into the stream to retrieve a bike mudgard; poor Sue laughed so much she forgot to take a photo.
Our judge, Michael Foy. Such a lovely chap, it was a hot day and he’d already been dragged around the rest of Exeter. By the time he reached he us was nearly done for and clearly not up to walking the route along Ludwell Valley that we’d planned. We cheered him up with a chauffeur-driven (me) tour of the area accompanied by lots of fun and laughter, finishing off with a pint and sandwiches at The Dolphin in Burnthouse Lane. He thoroughly enjoyed himself.
SW in Bloom Awards Event, Taunton Cricket Club, 6 October 2016
My colleague Andy Richards and I, receiving the Silver award for the Wonford Village entry, presented to us by Lord Julian Fellowes.
Our ‘In Your Neighbourhood’ entry as Wonford Planters achieved an ‘Advancing’ status. Our second local group; Wonford TLC (Together Let’s Communicate) is a group from Devon Partnership Trust, which is a NHS organisation that works closely with other health and social care providers across Devon to support the recovery of people with mental health needs. The group started meeting to share their craft skills and support each other in Recovery. They achieved an ‘Improving’ status.