A hard-working group of volunteers who give many hours of their free time towards making Swindon a better place for people and wildlife had their efforts recognised in September when they came first in their category at the Swindon Quality of Life Awards.
A prize of £500 was given, along with a certificate and plaque, to the Active TOO Thursday group, run by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, for winning the Community/Voluntary category.
“We’ve got a great bunch of people who put heart and soul into their work to make the group the success it is, and to whom we want to give our thanks and congratulations,” says the Trust’s Swindon Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Stebbing, who leads the group. Active TOO and the Thursday group is funded by the Cabinet Office programme GoldStar.
The annual Awards Scheme is organised by Swindon Borough Council’s Sustainable Development team. It is designed to boost awareness and interest in sustainable practices and to encourage everybody to take part in actions that lead to a better quality of life in the borough. The awards were presented at the Punjabi Community Centre, Gorsehill. Winners in all categories –
Sarah Stebbing is fifth from left, back row.
Also in the Community/Voluntary category, the Swindon Compost Ambassadors, trained by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, received a Highly Commended for the their hard work in helping schools with their compost schemes and for running information stands on composting and wormeries at Swindon festivals, shows and school fetes.
In the Thursday group, a hard core of about 20 volunteers turn out every week in all weathers to work on Trust nature reserves and other wild places to keep them in peak condition, at the same time creating wonderful spaces for people to enjoy.
From laying hedges, coppicing, putting up bird boxes, to making compost bins, installing gates, erecting deer fencing and cutting scrub, the list of tasks is a very long one indeed. Swindon spots to have benefited include Hagbourne Copse, Rushey Platt, Rivermead, and slightly further a field Clouts Wood and Lower Moor Farm nature reserve.
“We set out to attract a wide cross section of society especially those who have never taken an interest in the environment or volunteering before,” says Sarah.
“Apart from learning and passing on new skills among ourselves, the group also works with community groups, such as the Chiseldon Washpool Area Restoration Project (WARP), to encourage people to get involved in their local area and to pass on best knowledge and practice in running environmental tasks,” says Sarah.
The Thursday Group also helps to improve the environment on a larger scale by making use of and promoting offers such as low cost compost bin and water butt schemes.
If you would also like to join a similar group for practical conservation, Sarah is looking for volunteers to join the Active TOO Sunday group, which meets on the first and third Sunday of every month. For more information contact Sarah on (01793) 813592, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments from Thursday group volunteers:
• “I have gained experience in leading practical tasks and my practical skills and office skills knowledge has greatly improved. I take a lot of pride in all the work Active Swindon volunteers carry out.”
• “I enjoy being in the ‘Great Outdoors’ and get a worthwhile feeling of helping. I also enjoy the teamwork and camaraderie of like-minded people. I have learnt several skills learnt such as hedge laying and surveying.”
If you would like details of the next Compost Ambassador training course, or to join the team, which meets monthly, please contact Kate Robinson on (01793) 814823 or email email@example.com