Jo Metcalfe, of Greener Growth, in praise of our local councillors
(Above) Howard Heritage Memorial Orchard
So this is the week, when we are all voting for our local councillors – those of us that feel so inclined – you might think we would have little to do with politics being an education, conservation and therapeutic horticulture organisation. However, over the last five years we have had an increasing involvement with our local councillors, particularly those in and around Bury St Edmunds.
I must say, in common with many I guess, previous to this I’d never had much regard or paid much attention to this strata of local politics.
Time spent developing local school and community kitchen and wildlife gardens has really changed all that – as many of our local councillors have been involved. I am happy to report myself and the Greener Growth Team count ourselves lucky to know so many we hold in high regard.
We have developed relationships with town, borough and county councillors and, contrary to popular belief, they are a dedicated, committed and caring bunch, often performing a pretty thankless task.
They are the first ‘port of call’ when any of us need help, or something done in our area, whether it be sorting out a pothole, helping their local school, putting a new bin in – or discussing contributory funding for a community kitchen and wildlife garden or the siting of a heritage orchard.
Local councillors know their patch so well, and many of the people in it. They will help direct us if there’s a ‘Green Job’ that needs covering – and often help support the funding of this project through their Locality Budget. For us, that has included a huge range of projects in and around Bury, with a varied range of benefits and impact for the residents in that area and the wildlife we are trying to protect and extend. Examples are far ranging – such as Diane Hind drawing our attention to the wildlife pond that needed renovating at Tollgate Primary School, or the under-utilised area in Horringer Court that we’ve been working with thanks to Richard Rout and the Horringer Court Residents Association. Then there’s Paul Hopfensperger, who introduced us to the Howard Primary School, and the wonderful Ernie Broom and the HEART (Howards Estate Association of Residents and Tenants) team where there is now a heritage orchard (thanks to funds from local funeral business Fulchers) and a conservation and education project in St Olaves woodland.
David Nettleton has helped us begin to grow a kitchen garden on his ward and Robert Everitt has helped our project at Westley School, the list is quite endless. There are many more to name – including Patrick Chung and Anne Williamson helping our work at Riverwalk School – and so many more!
Often our councillors are the first ‘go to’ person when people in their ward are distressed or angry about something – even if it’s outside their jurisdiction or responsibility. We have learnt a great deal from this tenacious bunch – who care deeply about the ward they represent – and the people in it – and are always now our first point of contact when we are asked to help a school or community group with their green space.
This month we are putting together a ‘Diary Of Events’ for small courses at various different sites around Bury, including Horringer Court, The River Linnet, St Olaves Woodland, Jankyns Place (funded by Metropolitan) and various other areas around our increasingly green town. These courses will be centred around food growing, conservation and we hope will help generate more community spirit too.
We will be promoting them in the Bury Free Press over the next few weeks, and we hope you can come along to learn and grow along side our Greener Growth Teams.
You can be sure that your councillors will have had a hand in helping bring these plans to fruition, and will be attending some of the courses alongside those they represent. We take our gardening hats off to you all, and wish you well, with heartfelt thanks for all you do, often quietly in the background, we salute you! Thanks for all your help, knowledge and support over this past year.