Despite obvious Covid-19 set-backs, in 2020 Marton Parish Council succeeded in creating living willow sculptures and community edible gardens with grants from Severn Trent and Warwickshire County Council.
These provided the local community with transferable skills for employment, quality volunteering opportunities, fresh community-grown food, a focus for working in the outdoors (with its wellbeing benefits) and a much-needed sense of purpose and positivity during a very difficult year.
The WCC Councillor’s Grant funding was for £1050 and the Parish Council was successful in securing £5597 additional funding from the Severn Trent Community Fund to extend the project’s wildlife improvements and community involvement.
All Marton residents – more than 450 people in about 200 households – were invited to apply for willow sculpture training (three were funded to attend) and to volunteer with planting (52 generously gave many hours). Volunteer numbers were lower than might have been in an ordinary year as we had to manage very small and safely distanced groups and couldn’t hold any open events, but the project still created a much-needed sense of cohesion and activity at an otherwise lonely and anxious time.
During the work, volunteers spoke about how good it felt to ease out of lockdown by helping the community and safely working outdoors with others again. Residents also commented on how uplifting it was to see activity after lockdown had hushed the village.
“…there could hardly have been a more important time to provide new areas in the village for play, gardening and appreciating nature.”
Going forward, everyone in Marton will benefit from the additions of wildflowers to improve plant and insect diversity, a willow dome to broaden the range of play options on offer and large raised beds for community gardening. The raised beds (which are high enough for elderly or mobility impaired residents to use) have already been well used by residents planting herbs, sowing and harvesting salad crops and looking after rhubarb.
Thanks to additional clearance and rewilding work, The Orchard housing is now better linked to the playground and playing fields area, encouraging more use of these for healthy lifestyles and more appreciation of the benefits of nature.
The project has created a sense of community cohesion, hope and activity during a very difficult year. The focus on wellbeing and outdoor activity has been invaluable during Covid-19 awareness, even though the social side of volunteering has had to be scaled-back to keep everyone safe. This has made the project management complex but there could hardly have been a more important time to provide new areas in the village for play, gardening and appreciating nature.