Early in 2019 Marsh & Micklefield Big Local confirmed that Wycombe Marsh Community Environment Group had been awarded a Community Investment Grant over a period of five years. This initial funding allowed the group to be set up and work on activities that had previously been undertaken by local volunteers in an ad hoc fashion at their own expense.
Volunteers hit the ground running and worked on the necessary administrative tasks for the group to function as smoothly, efficiently and safely as possible including; agreeing a constitution, policies and procedures, arranging insurance, creating a logo, arranging equipment storage, securing trade discounts and setting up social media accounts.
Our first year has been much busier than anticipated with volunteering hours far exceeding our expectations as did the amount of work involved in co-ordinating and managing the group. We aim for the group to be friendly and open to all, regardless of age or ability. We have found working around the area has encouraged residents and non-residents to stop and talk to volunteers and each other about what we are doing, which we feel promotes a feeling of community and appreciation of the area.
As a group we have sought to be ‘Good Neighbours’ encouraging and supporting residents and businesses to share our aims and take pride in the area. Our tag line of ‘Making a Difference’ is something that we are keen to promote and develop. We have made use of social media and attracted a following of residents and like-minded individuals, groups and a wider High Wycombe audience.
We aim to keep it local and relevant to our activities and aims.Where possible we are committed to using local suppliers, businesses and facilities, for example using Tiny Garden Nursery, (Micklefield), as our first port of call for plants and Men in Sheds for the building of planters.
Posters have been displayed on local Notice Boards and our
Hi Vis vests carry both our logo and name to promote the group when we are undertaking activities in the area. We have started to build relationships with local social housing providers, businesses, local voluntary groups, and relevant local authorities and we intend to continue to develop these relationships and others on an ongoing basis. In addition to our volunteers we have been supported locally by M & C Bowen, the Battista family, Cableflow, Premier Foods, Wrights Meadow Centre, Marsh Baptist Church, Wycombe District Council, local councillors, Chiltern Rangers and the Neighbourhood Action Group.
Feedback we have received from residents and non-residents has been very encouraging given the ongoing problem with littering which we face at times. Setting up of the group coincided with the Keep Britain Tidy, Great British Spring Clean 2019 campaign and introduced the group to all the great work Keep Britain Tidy does. We shall also be taking part and promoting in the Great British Spring Clean 2020 in September.
Volunteer numbers on our regular monthly litter picks have fluctuated between three and twelve each session with 97 volunteers attending throughout the year. Ten volunteers were under 18, and the youngest 5 years old. We have responded to issues such as fly tipping and graffiti and encourage residents to report these problems. In some cases, our response when items have been dumped in the river, with grateful assistance from Chiltern Rangers staff and volunteers, is to retrieve items ourselves!
In July two volunteers attended a Marsh School assembly and performed a short play highlighting the problem of littering. We then launched a competition for the children to name the trolley one of our volunteers customised and is used to carry tools. We were delighted with the winning entry of Sir Trash-A-Lot. We are keen to continue working with the school to encourage young people not to litter and get them and their families involved.
Our gardening activities also proved popular with volunteers who worked in excess of 102 hours over the year and included:
· clearing the shrub bed adjacent to the bus stop on Abbey Barn Road
(courtesy of Men in Sheds, High Wycombe), and maintaining planters on
the railings outside the Baptist Church, London Road,
· making and planting up the planter outside Premier Stores, Kings Square,
· planting daffodil bulbs on the verge at the junction of Guinions Road/Micklefield Road
· planting of wildflowers on the verge opposite the Church of Shalom
· assisting Community Ranger John Taylor plant wildflowers in the verge near the Ford
· Planting spring bulbs outside the perimeter fence at Wrights Meadow Centre
The planters outside the Baptist Church drew comment on social media across High Wycombe and residents have expressed appreciation of the summer planting on the Village Sign garden.
Much of the group’s gardening work has been focused on the Village Sign garden which was in a very poor state. The area was cleared of weeds and tidied up in late Spring and the decision made to plant summer bedding to create a display for the first year. This was time consuming not only in terms of planting but also watering and we are grateful for the support of nearby residents Marko and Liza who were extremely accommodating in allowing use of their hosepipes and water supply.
We felt the amount of time spent on seasonal bedding for the village sign garden was not sustainable if the group wanted to extend their gardening activities and it was decided that a rose garden would be created along with new perennial planting to create all year round colour. Work has started on this and
will continue into Spring 2020.
In the coming year we aim to:
· design, print and distribute a leaflet across the area to promote the group and its activities
· continue holding regular litter picking events throughout 2020
· prioritise and undertake gardening activities for 2020
· arrange one off events/activities to promote the group, its aims and our work in the area
· consider and implement preventative measures that businesses, shops, residents and the group can take to reduce littering in the area
· recruit more volunteers
· continue working with other like-minded individuals/groups/organisations
We ask no ongoing commitment from our volunteers and are grateful for any time they can spare and if you are interested in joining us in any of our activities please email wymceg@gmail, or telephone Jean on 07951415171