Category Archives: Charities

THE GREAT EXMOOR RIDE IS COMING!

The Great Exmoor Ride is a brand-new city-to-coast challenge bike ride from the team behind the hugely popular Great Weston Ride (GWR), and the inaugural outing is taking place in the West Country this summer.

Billed as the GWR’s ‘baby brother’, the Great Exmoor Ride starts in Taunton and ends on the seafront at Blue Anchor near Minehead, but only after it has covered 63 miles (100km) of a stunning route through tranquil Somerset country lanes and on to and across the eastern part of Exmoor National Park.

The Ride is taking place on Sunday 3 September 2017 and participants are promised another great day to remember, courtesy of a spectacular route and the prospect of a late summer day out by the sea with friends and family at the end of it all.

And, while the Great Exmoor Ride may be the GWR’s baby brother in terms of its age, it is worth noting that it is every bit as challenging as an event – probably even more so, with the 63-mile route packing almost 1,600 metres of climbing.

A spokesman for the Great Exmoor Ride commented: “The aim with the Great Exmoor Ride is to replicate the challenge and enjoyment of the GWR in another wonderful part of Somerset and, while this new event is most definitely a decent cycling challenge, it’s been designed to still be accessible and to appeal to as many people as possible.

“We want to see lots of people out on their bikes and rising to their own personal challenge on the Great Exmoor Ride. It’s a truly spectacular route and there’s certainly enough of a challenge on offer. Like the GWR, it’s something that most people with a degree of fitness and the right mindset should be able to tackle – we want to see all sorts of people taking part, it’s very much intended as a social and community occasion so people are actively encouraged just to do it at their own pace with no time pressures, and we’re certain that riders who take the challenge will feel a huge sense of achievement when they reach the coast and cross the finish line.

“And, of course, with the long-established Great Weston Ride in July and the new Great Exmoor Ride in September, it’s a fantastic opportunity for people to bookend their summer with two fabulous West Country bike rides!”

The event is registered with British Cycling, the sport’s governing body, and riders will be provided with a whole host of event support services, including clear route signage, marshalling, medical cover, and ample mechanical support throughout the route.

The event organisers are once again asking riders to consider if they can fundraise while taking on the challenge, with Prostate Cancer UK being the event’s official charity partner. Over £150,000 has already been raised for the charity via the GWR and it is hoped that the Great Exmoor Ride can emulate that success over time.

Further information and full details on the event, including how to enter, can be found at www.greatexmoorride.com.

NEW ERA FOR AIR AMBULANCE PATIENTS IN DORSET AND SOMERSET

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is delighted to announce that its new AgustaWestland 169 (AW169) helicopter entered into service yesterday. This becomes the first AW169 to enter air ambulance operational service in the UK and is the culmination of years of planning and development.

The aircraft was selected following an extensive evaluation process. Its outstanding characteristics, superior capabilities and safety standards will ensure unprecedented levels of mission effectiveness and provide an enhanced life-saving service for the people of Dorset and Somerset.

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer, said: “It has always been the Charity’s aim and clear vision to pursue clinical excellence; pairing Critical Care Teams with the outstanding capabilities of the AW169 s is a natural development of that vision. Patient benefit remains our top priority and this was the single biggest criteria in selecting the new aircraft.

“Our ambitions and clinical aspirations determined a particular requirement from whichever aircraft we selected. The capabilities and flexibility offered by the AW169 made it a clear winner and in our view it was the only aircraft which fully met our criteria. Another major plus in selecting a new mark of aircraft is that you are taking advantage of the latest advances in technology. That means that it is safer and easier to maintain and operate.

Larger cabin area gives full access to patient

The medical equipment in the AW169 will not be hugely different to that which was carried on the Charity’s previous aircraft. However, the biggest difference is the space inside the cabin. This allows the Critical Care Team to have complete access to a patient, head to toe; a significant benefit if a patient needs further intervention or treatment on-route to hospital.

Over the past few months, the life-saving service has increased its operating hours from 12 to 19 hours a day (7am-2am).   During this time and in the hours of darkness, the crews have been deployed using a Critical Care Car.

Bill continues: “We are most grateful to Specialist Aviation Services who operate the AW169 helicopter on our behalf. They have worked closely with our clinical team to develop a medical interior that will enable them to more fully meet the needs of our patients than ever before.

“The AW169’s night-flying capabilities mean that we can now move forward into providing full night HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) missions. Our team will have the ability to fly directly to the patient without the need of any fixed or pre-established lighting which is a significant advantage. We are now looking forward to completing night HEMS training and subsequently operating the new aircraft for 19 hours a day.

“Our approach has been truly innovative and as a result the AW169 has had to undergo very intense scrutiny by the European Aviation Safety Agency. This is why it has taken a little longer than we had hoped for the aircraft to become operational. However, it has certainly been worth the wait and we are delighted to now have clearance to fly.”

More information on Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance can be found by visiting: www.dsairambulance.org.uk or by calling: 01823 669604.

EXMOOR PONY CENTRE CANTERS INTO THE FUTURE

Staff, volunteers and trustees from the Moorland Mousie Trust, which runs the Exmoor Pony Centre at Ashwick near Dulverton in Somerset, are celebrating an astounding achievement as their crowdfunding campaign draws to a close.

The 42-day appeal has seen the charity raise a staggering £35,000, exceeding the initial target by several thousand pounds thanks to the generosity of more than 850 people. The Centre is now safe until the end of the year and the staff and trustees can now focus on plans for its long-term survival. Centre Manager, Linzi Green, explained: “When we launched the appeal we were so desperate for funds to prevent the Centre from closing, it really was a make or break situation. We are totally overwhelmed by the response and are so grateful to everyone who has donated. However, we still desperately need funding to ensure the future of the charity and of the many Exmoor ponies we care for. ”

Trustee Juliet Rogers has been amazed by the public’s support: “It has been wonderful to see people from all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds, getting behind our charity and helping us to continue our work taking the unwanted Exmoor ponies who would otherwise have no future.”

The charity’s trustees have praised all the volunteers who help to keep the Centre running day to day and have bestowed huge thanks on two volunteers, Gail Cheeseman and Doulla Aebli, who have organised the Crowdfunder campaign and devoted the last six weeks to ensuring the threat of closure no longer hangs over the Exmoor Pony Centre.

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Many congratulations to the Exmoor Pony Centre for a fantastic fundraising effort, we are delighted to hear that their target was so comprehensively beaten. It is a testament to the dedication and hard work of a small team of people who care so much about the Exmoor ponies which enliven our landscapes.”

Donations and offers of help have poured into the Centre and fundraising events such as sponsored rides, cake stalls, non-uniform days and pony parties are being organised by supporters throughout the UK. There is still much to achieve before the charity’s future can be assured and the fight still goes on for the ponies. Staff and volunteers hope a busy summer will continue to boost funds with revenue from riding sessions, activity days and visitors.

“The real stars of this campaign have been the Exmoor Ponies themselves.” said Linzi, “I am sure if they could speak they would like to have the final word and say thanks to everyone for supporting this appeal and giving them, and the Exmoor Pony Centre, a future.”

You can find details of activities and events, follow the charity’s progress or sign up to be a supporter and receive newsletters, on the website: www.exmoorponycentre.org.uk or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheExmoorPonyCentre. The charity is also pleased to accept donations via our website, by post and by phone on 01398 323093.

 

VIRTUAL REALITY EXPERT GIVES DEVON AIR AMBULANCE A 360° HELICOPTER WALK-THROUGH

A businessman who specialises in virtual reality (VR) walk-throughs for property sales has used his state-of the-art technology to create a virtual tour of Devon Air Ambulance’s (DAA) emergency helicopter and hangar at the charity’s Eaglescott air base.

Noel Sexton, who runs based Somerset based View It 360, providing VR Solutions for businesses from London to Truro, has donated the VR tour to thank DAA for the role in getting his new-born son Callum to hospital after he suffered severe breathing difficulties and was turning blue.

Although the incident happened 11 years ago, it was when Noel set up his VR business last year that he realised he could do something unique for the charity.

He said: “A few years after the incident my mother heard about the airbase visits for former patients and contacted Head Office to arrange a visit for us all.  Afterwards my parents signed up to become volunteers with the charity and they now service the DAA collection boxes in the East Devon areas and also help man DAA stalls at various events.

“Callum is now a fit and healthy 11-year-old who loves life.  The entire family are very grateful to DAA and over the years we have held several fund-raising events for them.  So when I set up my new business, View It 360, at the end of last year, I immediately saw an opportunity to raise awareness of the work of the charity by offering to donate a 360 degree virtual reality tour of the helicopter and hangar at Eaglescott.”

Using the latest technology, View it 360’s immersive and photo-realistic tours provide an easy-to-navigate walk through with the ability to zoom in and out and rotate the image.  The tour can be viewed on mobile, tablet and desktop devices by visiting www.daat.org/vr-tour-of-devon-air-ambulance and can also be viewed through VR headsets.

DAA Chief Executive Heléna Holt said: “This is a wonderful gesture from Noel.  It’s a visually stunning tour and will give more of our supporters a better idea of the helicopter’s specification and controls as well as being great fun to navigate around.  It’s a very different type of donation but one we are extremely grateful for, especially as it will attract more visitors to our website to see the work we are doing on behalf of the people of Devon.”

 

DEVON AIR AMBULANCE SUPPORTER PROMISE

Cara Jones

Devon Air Ambulance would once again like to take an opportunity to promote its ‘Supporter Promise’ at the same time as welcoming new Volunteer Manager, Cara Jones, to its team to support over 430 amazing volunteers.

After receiving questions on whether it pays its volunteers a cut of monies they collect, Fundraising Director Caroline Creer, said, “All of our amazing volunteers donate their time and efforts day in, day out.  They could be attending events, working in one of our 17 charity shops, collecting boxes or picking up a cheque at a presentation.”

She added, “We’ve been asked a lot recently if we pay commission to our volunteers – no, we do not! Every single penny raised goes straight into the pot to keep Devon’s two Air Ambulances flying up to 17 hours a day. That’s why our volunteers are so amazing and we couldn’t achieve what we do without them.”

If you would like to find out more about volunteering for Devon Air Ambulance why not get in touch? It’s not only a feel-good thing to do, it’s also a great way to meet new friends and learn new skills.  Contact Devon Air Ambulance on 01392 466666 or email: fundraising@daat.org.  Alternatively, if you would like to volunteer in one of their shops why not pop into your local one to find out more?

Supporter Promise:

Devon Air Ambulance’s Supporter Promise to you:

  • We don’t share or sell any of our supporters’ data
  • We treat our supporters as they wish to be treated
  • The only mail we send out is our Helipad magazine up to four times a year to keep our supporters up to date with our activities and local interest
  • We send monthly enewsletters – only to supporters who have asked to receive them
  • We don’t authorise anyone to go door to door on our behalf
  • The only representatives of the charity who may ask for your personal information are our lottery canvassers but only if you choose to join
  • We do not employ third party companies to ring our supporters asking for more or to cold call
  • We do not pay commission to anyone collecting our boxes or cheques on our behalf

AIR AMBULANCE COAST TO COAST CYCLISTS RARING TO GO!

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is holding its seventh annual Coast to Coast (C2C) Cycle Challenge on Sunday 14 May 2017 and is hoping that the public will come out in support of the 600 cyclists taking part.

The event, which is not a race, involves a challenging 54-mile cycle ride which starts at Watchet Harbour in the north and ends at West Bay in the south, following a wonderfully scenic route through the beautiful Somerset and Dorset countryside. A staggered start will see the stronger cyclists set off first at 11am, with the less experienced riders departing at 11.15am. A shorter 11-mile route starts at the Royal Oak public house in Drimpton at 2pm and also finishes at West Bay.

Last year’s event saw people of all ages and abilities take part, raising over £81,000 (including gift aid) for the life-saving charity. With only 600 places available, it was no surprise that the event sold out within 11 hours of online registration being open.

This ever-popular event is renowned for being an emotional and inspiring day out for everyone involved. That’s no surprise given the fact that the cyclists include patients who have experienced the work of the air ambulance first-hand and those who take part in memory of a loved one. Others get involved as part of a team or simply want to challenge themselves and support the charity in return.

This year, for the first time, the cyclists who were fortunate in gaining a place, will be joined by members of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance crew who are set to cycle the 54 mile route on triplet bicycles.

The team, who call themselves the ‘COASTBUSTERS’ have been training for the event at their Henstridge airbase and are hoping the public will get behind them and show their support.

In a bid to raise £2,500 and fund one life-saving mission, the team have set up a JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/dsaa-coastbusters where donations of any size can be made. Mobile phone users can easily donate by texting: CREW54 £5 to 70070. Every penny raised really will make a big difference.

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge is a fantastic occasion and the atmosphere is incredible. The fact that members of our crew are taking part this year makes the event even more special. They are incredible ambassadors of the Charity and I’m sure it will be an extremely emotional day all round; the aches and pains will definitely be worthwhile.

“Every year the event seems to get better and that is mainly due to the wonderful team of volunteers, members of the public and local businesses who help us with marshalling and keeping the cyclists safe.

“Our thanks go to the event sponsors and the various pit stop locations along the route, without their help and support, we simply could not put on such a large scale event.

“Finally, a very big thank you to all the cyclists taking part who are encouraging their friends and family to sponsor them. Let’s hope the weather stays fine and we raise as much as possible and make this the best Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge yet!”

Supporters will be able to encourage the cyclists at the starting point, along the route, or at the finishing line celebrations at East Beach Car Park in West Bay.

More information about the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance can be found by visiting: www.dsairambulance.org.uk or by calling: 01823 669604.

EAT DIRT ON EXMOOR 2017: THANK YOU DULVERTON!

Mountain bike enthusiasts from across the South West converged on Dulverton at the weekend for the second annual ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor’ event, organised by Calvert Trust Exmoor and supported by Exmoor National Park and the fantastic people of Dulverton.

282 cyclists took part in the circular ride, raising over £5,650 between them, with more sponsorship still coming in. The event started in Dulverton and followed the route of the River Barle up to Tarr Steps, then up onto the moor, south-east to the River Exe and then back into Dulverton for the finish line.

The riders really enjoyed the event. As Paul Mugenyi from Bristol said, “Thank you all so much for an amazing day and course. I really loved it and dare I say it was better than last year! A massive thanks to the organisers, marshals and land owners!”

Rob Lott, Head of Communications at Calvert Trust Exmoor, said, “We were absolutely delighted that so many riders came out to support us and enjoy the beauty of Exmoor. Without the support of so many wonderful people from Dulverton and the surrounding area who allowed us to use their land, volunteered to be marshals and run refreshment stations, and helped set up the route, this event just wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks to your support we will be able to help more people with disabilities to access cycling and other adventurous activities.”

As well as the fabulous volunteer marshals and helpers, Calvert Trust Exmoor would also like to thank the brilliant local businesses and organisations whose support enabled the event to happen: Mole Valley Farmers, The Bike Shop (Tiverton), Ivan’s Coffee, GT Bicycles and AMASS Medical  as well as Exmoor National Park.

Photos from ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor 2017 can be seen online at www.calvert-trust.org.uk/eatdirt. Calvert Trust Exmoor hopes to announce the date for ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor 2018’ in the next few weeks.

DEVON AIR AMBULANCE HIGHLY COMMENDED IN AWARDS

Devon Air Ambulance is passionate about investing in its staff.  They believe that the team can only be as good as its skill sets, so actively encourages all staff to undertake training and development to help them carry out their roles to the best of their ability.

Recently the charity was nominated for the Education and Training Skills Employer of the Year Award by Catherine Walker, Fundraising Administration Assistant.  The Annual Apprentice and Employer of the Year Awards ceremony is held during National Apprenticeships Week, which was also celebrating ten years of the National Apprenticeships Scheme.

Catherine said, “I joined Devon Air Ambulance in November 2015, as a temp.  My role was made permanent in March 2016.  I’m privileged to be part of such an amazing dedicated team and forward-thinking charity.”

She added, “The charity has helped me in so many ways, from helping me to gain confidence on the phone, to helping me improve and update my knowledge and encouraging me to push myself to succeed in things that I am less confident in.”

Caroline Creer, Fundraising Director of Devon Air Ambulance, said “Investing in the training and development of our team is extremely important to us.  It’s essential whatever your business that your team has the right skills to be able to do their job.  When Cat asked if she could further her knowledge, by undertaking the Advanced Apprenticeship in Business Administration, we were delighted. This apprenticeship includes the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Business Administration, and Functional Skills Level 2 in English, Maths and ICT. Cat has recently passed her ICT exam.”

Caroline added, “We were delighted that Cat decided to nominate us for this award and honoured to be highly commended in the Employer of the Year category, which recognises the charity as supporting lifelong learning within the workplace.”

 

 

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST WILD GARDENS PROGRAMME

Some of Somerset’s most dazzling and inspiring wildlife gardens are opening to the public this summer to fundraise for Somerset Wildlife Trust, and inspire us to use our own gardens to help wildlife on our own doorstep

Somerset Wildlife Trust’s ‘Wildlife Gardens’ is an initiative that will see a selection of Somerset’s finest examples of gardens specifically designed to support our wildlife opening their gates to the public.

The gardens, spread across the county, as well as being stunning in their own right, each showcase unique features that provide special homes for our best-loved species – from small mammals and pollinators, to birds and pond-dwellers. The Trust hopes to inspire visitors to take away ideas for things they can do in their own gardens, school playgrounds, or office gardens to provide a secure home for wildlife.

Whilst all of the participating gardens are very different, they each have one thing in common – owners who are passionate about their gardens and happy to open them in order to inspire others and to support the Trust’s work.  They will be on site, alongside Somerset Wildlife Trust staff, to offer advice and tips as well as delicious tea and cakes for visitors.  The entry fee is £4 per adult, (free for children aged 16 and under), and all hosts will donate the proceeds to Somerset Wildlife Trust to support its work across the county.

Emma Jones, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Community Fundraiser, explains, “56% of the UK’s species are in decline.  Our wildlife need pathways upon which to travel to and through the county in order to feed, breed and find new homes.  Our own gardens, whether large or small, in the town or in the country literally act as safe, green stepping stones for this to happen.  It’s the little things we do on our own doorsteps that can have a collective impact for wildlife and, whilst the Somerset Wildlife Gardens initiative showcase the very finest examples of wildlife friendly gardening, in each of them there are things that we can replicate in our own  space.

“Even if you are not a gardener at all, getting outside and connecting with nature is good for our health and well-being and the gardens are absolutely fabulous places to spend an enjoyable afternoon and a great way to get to know your local area, so please do come along to one near you.”

Here are the participating gardens (not in date order):

1. Sherborne Garden, Litton, Radstock, BA3 4PP
Host Pamela Southwell
May 21st 2017 at 10:30-17:00
Sherborne Garden is a romantic and enchanting garden, with a peaceful and timeless feel.  Created from agricultural land, and spreading over four acres, it’s a true labour of love. Come along to wander across the striking bridge and explore the winding paths – perfect for children to scamper along and to find secret hideaways in unusual trees.

2. Ball Copse Hall, Brent Knoll, Highbridge, TA9 4DF
Host Sue Boss
July 2nd 2017 at 12:00-17:00
Ball Copse Hall boasts one of the most breath-taking views of the Quantock and Polden Hills in the County. It is easy to understand why it was chosen as a military hospital in the war, as the hope was that the views would heal all. Thanks to the rare ‘crinkle-crankle’ walled garden which provides a warmer temperature, there are some unusual plants to be found, such as a huge kiwi tree from New Zealand. You’ll also find a wildlife pond, home to great-crested newts, and beehives nestled under the beech trees.

3. Broomclose, Porlock, Minehead, TA24 8NU
Hosts David and Nicky Ramsay
17th and 18th June at 13:00-17:00
Broomclose is a stunning Arts and Craft house with a garden classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is divided into idyllic pockets, from the Camelia Walk to the vegetable garden, and has a stunning view over the Vale of Porlock. As there is a milder eco-climate here you will also find unusual sub-tropical trees and plants.  It has been described as “bee heaven” by local beekeepers due to the huge array of bee-friendly plants, and you will be able to see the bees and their hives in the garden.  David, garden host and passionate beekeeper, will be around to answer your questions on this incredibly important aspect of conservation.

4. Model Farm, Perry Green, Wembdon, Bridgwater TA5 2BA
Hosts Dave and Roz Young
9th July at 13:00-17:00
Model Farm is a beautiful four-acre garden that has been lovingly created in the last seven years.  You can explore the wonderful wild flower meadow, stunning flower beds and the incredible 700 trees, which  have all been planted  by the owners on what was once agricultural land.  Don’t forget to find the fabulous wildlife pond too. On the day there won’t only be the chance to wander through this amazing garden, but you can explore the plant sale, display of vintage engines and  local cider makers, as well as  get involved in croquet on the lawn.

5. The Miller’s House, Nunney, Nr Frome, BA11 4NP
Host Caroline Toll
May 27th at 11:00 to 16:00
If you would like to see a beautiful wildlife pond then don’t miss the chance to come to the tranquil garden at Miller’s House, where you will find an atmospheric mill pond which is often visited by  dragonflies. The Miller’s House is set in a small valley near the fabulous Nunney Castle.  You can take a wander along the wild paddock at the bottom of the garden next to the river, from the leat to Nunney Brook, where you can find a perfect paddling spot and a ‘Butterfly bank’ – an amazing bank on the river covered in wildflowers and grasses.

6. Vellacott Cottage Garden, Lawford, Crowcombe, TA4 4AL
Hosts Kevin and Pat Chittenden
June 4th at 13:00-16:00

see photo at top

As featured in the summer 2017 issue of Exmoor Magazine, out mid-May

Vellacott is the archetypal Cottage Garden. The surrounding Quantocks and Brendon Hills make Vellacott feel like a floral oasis, a paradise for all wildlife.  Paths lead you through abundant plants, up to the top where you can find peep holes in the hedges to enjoy the spectacular views – and along the way find the very contented chickens too. Around the garden you will discover many salvaged, historic gardening relics including a Shepherd’s hut that Kevin and Pat are renovating.  Vellacott is a peaceful, joyous space.

7. Hillcrest Garden, Curload, Stoke St Gregory, Taunton TA3 6LA
Hosts Charlotte and Charles Sundquist
June 24th and 25th at 14:00 to 17:00
Hillcrest is a five-acre garden with so many special places within it that everyone can find a perfect spot to sit and contemplate, although the lawn is said to be perfect for cartwheels! It has incredible far reaching views overlooking the Somerset Levels, where you will spot Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump – although Hillcrest has its own standing stone that you can get up close to. Don’t miss the chance to visit the very large wild flower meadow leading down to an enormous wildlife pond, full of dragonflies and beehives – with a bee expert on hand to answer any questions you may have about the essential garden visitors.

8. Bracondale Garden, Staplehay, Trull, TA3 7HB
Host – Richard & Jackie Denton-Cox
May 14th at 12:00-17:00
Bracondale is a wildlife haven in Staplehay with a wonderful pond full of frogs, and a meadow that will be in full bloom in time for your visit. You will also find an array of stunning trees including, Persian Ironwood, Redwood, Chinese Tulip tree and Blackgum.

9. Badbury Flowers, Badbury Dairy House, Isle Abbots, TA3 6RS
Host Helen Toon
11th June at 11:00 to 15:00
Badbury Dairy House is a Flower Farm, and Helen the host, is a flower farmer. Helen supplies brides to country markets with stunning floral displays created from her own flowers grown from seed. Come along and be inspired by beautiful home grown flowers – and there’s also the chance to take away your own posy!

GROW FOR SYRIA

Post by Claire Reed, Head Gardener at Hestercombe

I’m sure that like many of us you have all found it very difficult watching the plight of thousands of refugees fleeing their homes to escape such awful conditions. After talking with friends, we all agreed that we wanted to actually ‘do’ something physical to help. So, recently, I have been involved in setting up a local project called ‘Grow for Syria’.

The project aims to raise money and awareness for Help Refugees UK and support the amazing work that they carry out. We looked at our skill base (we are mainly all gardeners) and our friendship groups to see what we could achieve and how we could raise funds. A project called Cook for Syria had really inspired me. The organisers had collaborated with chefs and refugees to create a cook book of Syrian-based recipes. I loved the fact that the book was producing something positive and sharing cultures. The book has been a sell out. I think that reaching out through food and gardening, basic everyday pleasures that bring people together, to build communities really works. And so Grow for Syria was born.

So what are we up to?

I have been raising money by offering to act as a garden adviser at individuals’ gardens (within a reasonable distance). I will spend an hour in the garden with them, discussing design ideas, plant ideas and general advice.

I have also been in touch with seed companies. Seed packets have a sell-by date after which they can’t be sold as viability and the percentage of germination rate cannot be guaranteed. Often the seed will still germinate but, due to seed law, the company has to guarantee a certain rate. Several companies were happy to give me their seeds. These packets have been handed on to various individuals and groups. The idea is that they will sow and grow the seeds and then either arrange their own plant sales to sell on the plants, or pass the plants back to me to sell on.

Local gardening clubs have also been involved. They are supplying any leftover packets of seeds, extra pots of seedlings that they don’t need (we’ve all done it – sown the whole packet of courgettes just in case they don’t all germinate… and then they do and you’re left wondering if you can fit 32 courgette plants in your garden!). Any plants that are being divided, dug out and propagated can all be sold in a plant sale for Help Refugees UK.

It’s exciting. I’ve met some amazing people through the project, many of whom feel the same as me and just wanted to physically do something to help. We have already had a seed swap and sale in Wiveliscombe as a fundraiser and we have a few events coming up.

Dates for your diary:
When: 28th May 2017
Where: Stoke St Mary

What: Stoke St Mary Soap Box Derby – not only is this a great family event, there are lots of stalls including one where I will be selling plants for Grow for Syria. For a donation you can ask me a question about your garden too!

When: 18th June 2017
Where: JWBlooms flower field at Hillcommon.

What: JWBlooms is run by Jan who grows organic cut flowers mainly for weddings and occasions. From the 9th April the field is open to public every Sunday for tea, coffee and cakes, and a stroll around the flowers. It’s a beautiful setting and I highly recommend it. Jan will have a permanent stand of plants you can buy to support Grow for Syria but on the 18th June we are arranging a special Gardeners Question Time type event where a panel of experts will be on hand to answer your questions. Confirmed panel members includes myself, Damien Mitchell (head gardener at Lytes Cary), Sarah Venn (Edible Bristol), Ahsley Wheeler (veg grower at Trill Farm) and Danny Burlingham (head gardener at Forde Abbey).

For more info please go to the JWBlooms website www.jwblooms.co.uk/

Currently you can follow Grow for Syria on Instagram
Otherwise if you want to help please get in touch
clairereid1@gmail.com

PHOTO: Claire Reed at Hestercombe by Chris Lacey Photography courtesy Hestercombe Gardens.