Awards 2014 363 edit

Congratulations to the Stradbroke Charitable Trust who have won the award for the best Community Project. The award was presented to Peter Smith, Roger Turkington and Helen Pleasance at Snape Maltings. The Awards Ceremony was hosted by Mark Murphy of Radio Suffolk with a very inspiring keynote address from Lord Deben.

The Awards are in their 9th year and aim to recognise outstanding achievements by individuals, buisnesses, schools and community groups in helping to improve our environment. The award to Stradbroke is recognition of all the hard work that has gone into the project by so many people in the village. Special thanks should also go to SAGA who were formed as a result of the project and have been an invaluable source of support and inspiration.

50 words to describe the Trust

To supply and maintain the medical centre in Stradbroke. To engage in charitable and supportive activities for the benefit of the people of Stradbroke and the surrounding villages with particular reference to health and healthy living.

A summary of your work 
In 2012 the Trust purchased a 6 acre field on the edge of the village for allotments and other community use. The total cost to the Trust including legal fees was £47,603. Funded by a £30,000 bank loan, £2,000 from Parish Council, over £6,000 from local private donations and the balance from reserves.

Once the purchase was complete the Trust led an extensive consultation process with residents, experts and other interest parties including the primary and secondary village schools and the Parish Council. At a public meeting attendees were asked to develop and share their ideas which concluded with a number of outline plans and a comprehensive list of features and facilities. From these initial plans a detailed design was produced that included 30 allotments, community orchard, nuttery, wild flower meadow and a small woodland area for the benefit of wildlife and quiet reflection.

The Trust was successful in securing grant aid support from; Big Lottery Awards for all (£9,981), Big Tree Plant (£4,522) and Mid Suffolk DC (£13,748).

A new group – the Stradbroke Allotment & Gardeners Association (SAGA) was formed and the practical work started in the latter part of 2012 and through all of 2013. The major achievements since securing the grants has been the:

- creation of a rabbit proof area for 28 full size allotments (all but 3 are in full production) and some raised beds for those that can't manage a full or half site
- creation of a 2 acre community orchard planted with traditional suffolk varieties
- creation of a 2 acre woodland and wild flower area
- building of a low carbon community shed, compostable toilet, store, car park and access track
- planting of over 1400 trees and 2000 hedging plants

All of the above has only been achievable through the support of all the community. Approximately 60 volunteers were actively involved in all the horticultural work and the building of the shed and store with considerable help from farmers and local tradespeople.

The total 'human' effort amounted to about 125 days, nearly 1000 hours of which over a quarter was professionals giving their time freely to the project.

The total cost of the project so far has been over £90,000 with 70% of the cost being met by the Trust donors and volunteer.

How have you improved your community's environmental behaviour / performance? 
Throughout the development of the project consideration for the environment has been a priority. SAGA has adopted an organic policy, The community shed and compostable toilet were built using green oak foundations and timber super structure to keep their carbon footprint to a minimum.

The growing of fruit and vegetables is clearly sustainable in its own right but is perhaps even more pertinent now with the closure of our village shop, villagers now have to travel into Diss or further afield to get their groceries.

SAGA is running various events to promote good practice to its members, it is selling some surplus and home made produce. It is also helping with wider community activities for all ages and abilities such as scarecrow building/making thus enriching community cohesion.
Other social events such as quiz nights have brought together different individuals and families that were not previously engaged in community activities.

The Trust and SAGA are committed to encouraging greater biodiversity on the site but at the same time enable all villagers to visit and enjoy the facility in a responsible way. Involving everyone from the start has obviously helped in this regard and the ongoing involvement of every (young and old) through local publicity and events.

How have you involved others? 
The Trust was aware of demand for allotments as the Parish Council had been trying (unsuccessfully) for a number of years to find a suitable site. Commercial sensitivities prevented us from publicising our intentions to buy the site until the contracts were signed.

At that stage we then arranged the first public meeting and site visit for anyone interested in the project including; neighbours, schools, potential allotment holders, farmers etc.

From that point on the project really took off and now everyone can see what we've achieved more people are taking an interest or at the very least visiting the site. The number of volunteers to date is detailed above.

Students from both schools were involved in the design of leaflets and keeping a photographic record of the changes. Nature visits to broaden knowledge and encourage future interest have also been arranged.

In September a Chicken Cooperative was formed which has attracted a few more participants that were not involved before.

For the foreseeable future there will be a need for volunteers to help with the ongoing maintenance of the site and we shall be actively seeking to recruit new helpers not just SAGA members and Trustees.

Briefly describe how you see your actions developing in the future.
A neighbouring landowner has very kindly donated a corner of his field which contains a large pond and area of scrub which we are now in the process of improving in order to increase biodiversity and enable safe access for the public.

The paths around the site already link with an existing public footpath and it is hoped that we may be able to create a new permissive path into another part of the village to create an interesting circular walk and provide more direct access to the site for some residents hopefully obviating the need to use their cars.

In a few years time the orchard will be producing a substantial harvest which will enable further community involvement and fun with presses, cooking and preserving as well as general maintenance.

The wild flower areas will need careful management in the early years to ensure residual seeds and plants from farm production don't swamp the newly planted areas. The wooded areas will need thinning and the nuttery coppicing with timber being used on the site for bena poles and other supports.

Over 500m of hedging has been planted and in the longer term we may consider training volunteers in the craft of traditional hedge laying.

Further information about the Trust

Further information about SAGA

Greenest County website