Harlow’s Plant Pots and Wellies crowned one of the friendliest community organisations in UK ahead of Coronation weekend

Charity / Wed 3rd May 2023 at 10:32am

WITH more than 500 heart-warming nominations received, the Eden Project, who are the people behind the Coronation Big Lunch, are proud to announce their Coronation Communities rewards winner, three finalists and ten highly commended groups!  

It was Food Share Wyre Forest that won judges’ votes for the top prize – a group of neighbours who give up their time to run a food sharing initiative in Stourport, which has now been crowned as the friendliest community in the UK!

As part of the Coronation Big Lunch campaign, organisers aimed to recognise ordinary people making life better for their neighbours. Each group has been identified for the rewards to shine a light on the acts of kindness taking place in our streets, estates and community groups, as the nation prepares to come together for Coronation celebrations 6-8 May.

Winners awarded the top prize are Food Share Wyre Forest, a community group run by neighbours to boost social connection and support those struggling with the cost of living. Having created and fitted out a community space that sits at the heart of their community using found and repurposed materials, they are now working to galvanise and boost community spirit. Volunteers take on duties including collecting and preparing food, cleaning the hall and litter picking. 

This make-do-and-mend neighbourhood group use what they find and resource, ploughing spare time in to run a food share three days a week, provide breakfasts and roast lunches and put on regular family events. Passionate about reducing waste, the community pride themselves on working resourcefully and repurposing what they can, all with the aim of driving positive social change and responding to the needs of those living nearby, many of whom are struggling to get by.

The community applied to win the Eden Project Coronation Communities reward garden to create a growing space for fruit and vegetables that people locally can cultivate, with the aim of sharing home-grown produce and eating more fresh ingredients, and improving their connections with each other and with nature as they tend the garden together. The group also hope that the garden will provide a place for educational activities for local children, teaching them how to grow plants, learning where food comes from, and how to harvest, prepare and cook it. 

Velda McMillan from Food Share Wyre Forest, winner of Coronation Communities, said: The volunteers at Food Share Wyre Forest at The Walshes Community Centre are thrilled to have won this award. We hope to be able to expand our activities to our wider community from young to old and to introduce outdoor seating and planting areas that will encourage even more participation. It’s such an exciting project for all of our volunteers and we can’t wait to offer new experiences and opportunities to our community as a result.”

Three other communities have been recognised for their inclusivity, positivity and friendliness, and will receive funding towards their community ideas and a Coronation Big Lunch hamper. They include Plant Pots and Wellies, Harlow, Carnbo Village in Scotland and New Keith Thompson Centre Committee (TNKTCC) in Braithwaite & Guardhouse, the largest estate in Keighley, Yorkshire.

Finalist – Plant Pots and Wellies (PPW) is an exciting volunteer run community initiative in Harlow, Essex created to support children and adults with additional needs. Teaching about gardening and nature, and growing food from seed to plate, it provides horticultural therapy supporting those with neurological conditions, such as autism and physical challenges. It’s accessible to wheelchair users and partially sighted gardeners, as well as those suffering with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. The group is regarded as a place where everyone is welcome, everyone is treated as an equal and people of all ages and abilities thoroughly enjoy attending or volunteering. 

Rowen Saunders volunteers at Plant Pots and Wellies and said: “It’s amazing to be a recognised as a Coronation Communities finalist! At Plant Pots and Wellies, new friendships are forged and those more vulnerable members of Harlow are supported. Life skills are taught and confidence is boosted. Plant Pots and Wellies is for everyone and has formed a close knit ‘extended family’ community – where friendship, fun and people grow together. We can’t wait to use our prize to do more of what we do best!”  

Finalist – Carnbo Village, Scotland. Community spirit burns bright in Carnbo – a friendly, inclusive rural village in Scotland where neighbours go above and beyond to support each other. Since buying the old village school in 1988 for £1, neighbours have transformed it into the only meeting place where people can socialise. Activities range from evening Hall Talks, afree Children’s Christmas party and quizzes to Hogmanay, music nights, Coffee & Chat mornings during the colder months and fun summer afternoon BBQs that bring families, friends and neighbours together, all boosting community spirit, supporting mental health and reducing feelings of isolation. Through illness, bereavements, births and enduring the challenges they faced during the pandemic, neighbours have reached out and supported one another by offering lifts, food, practical help, or just a listening ear and empathy.

Diane Timmins, who lives in Carnbo and applied for the rewards, said: “We couldn’t be happier to be honoured as a Coronation Communities finalist. Our friendly and inclusive community goes above and beyond to support people and is brimming with kindness and connection. Despite living in a rural, spread-out area, thanks to our village hall, we regularly come together and build relationships that ensure everyone feels supported by their community. We’re excited to use our prize to help us continue our work building community spirit.”

Finalist – TNKTCC in Keighley, Yorkshire. At the New Keith Thompson Centre Committee (TNKTCC) in Braithwaite & Guardhouse, the largest estate in Keighley, Yorkshire, the community has fighting spirit, but no places to meet. Having lost vital community spaces, neighbours have banded together to turn the tide of disconnection. They have started hiring spaces for activities to bring people together, running bingo sessions, coffee mornings and mother & toddler groups. Determined to create vital opportunities for neighbours to make friendships, socialise, and support one another, they are battling against the odds to provide opportunities for people to socialise – knowing that creating a sense of connection is vital to the mental health and wellbeing of those in their community. They have an ambitious vision to create a new meeting space open to everyone and are fundraising towards that dream.

Julie Meares from New Keith Thompson Centre said: “Our community has been without a community centre for years and they deserve more. I can see the enthusiasm for a community centre where all residents can participate in regular activities and truly feel part of the community! We’re eager to have a Coronation Big Lunch street party and use these funds and this occasion as a launch for our ambitions for our new community centre, demonstrating to local people how far we’ve come and what more we have to achieve.”

Other highly commended communities stretch across the country, from a charity supporting vulnerable, bereaved and isolated people in Birmingham, to a Cornwall village community that rallied together after losing much-loved residents during the pandemic, a multicultural community in Harrow that shares food, picks litter and supports those in need and a park group in Rotherham doing its bit to introduce greenery and encourage accessible play for all. 

Peter Stewart LVO, Chief Purpose Officer at the Eden Project, which is behind the Coronation Big Lunch, said: “As we approach a momentous weekend for the whole nation, we’re proud to be honouring the streets, neighbourhoods and community groups that go the extra mile to make life better in their local areas. From groups going all out to green up and clean up their streets, to neighbours supporting each other through the toughest of times and roads coming together for events reducing loneliness and isolation, these outstanding communities are a shining example of what can be achieved when we come together. Whether it’s through organising a Coronation Big Lunch, an offer of a cup of tea or a knock on a door, we hope that these communities will inspire many more people across the country to get to know their neighbours better and see what can grow from that first spark of connection.”

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2 Comments for Harlow’s Plant Pots and Wellies crowned one of the friendliest community organisations in UK ahead of Coronation weekend:

Cllr James Griggs
2023-05-03 16:29:54

Absolutely fantastic news and well deserved recognition for a magical organisation that I’m proud to have in my Netteswell ward. Looking forward to coming and seeing you all again very soon.

Tonya Hodgson
2023-05-04 08:43:21

Huge Congratulations Rowen & Eric Know how hard you work and the huge benefits to your visitors. Hope funding helps you to spread the love even further. Happy Coronation Big Lunch!

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