Will Harlow’s community champion Carly Burd ever see her allotment of dreams become a reality?

Communities / Sun 10th Dec 2023 at 02:30pm

OVER the past few weeks, in the run up to Christmas, we have spoken to a number of individuals and organisations who are helping Harlow residents battle the cost of living crisis.

We interviewed Andy Thornton at the Harlow Foodbank; we interviewed Kerrie Eastman at Streets2Homes; we have spoken to a range of voluntary organisations at Rainbow Services and Herty and her team at Community Embrace.

On Wednesday, we went down to see Colin Thorpe at the re-birth of the Potter Street and Church Langley community garden/allotment. And there have been festive events at the Plant Pots and Wellies allotment in The Dashes.

So we thought this would be a good time to see how award-winning community champion Carly Burd is getting on in her mission to develop an allotment and help improve the lives of the people of Harlow.

To recap: back in the summer of 2022, Little Parndon resident Carly Burd turned her back garden into an allotment. From there, the food she cultivated was placed in front of her house and offered to residents for free.

This was quite a feat on its own but you have to remember that Cary has multiple sclerosis and lupus.

As Carly testifies: some days it takes her hours to get out of bed. How she runs a home with children is beyond us!

The food from the back garden was augmented with a little stall on her front drive.

A Facebook page was set up (A Meal From Me with Love), a modest GoFundMe page as well as crusading Carly started to deliver meals around the town.

Carly had also spied an empty allotment down the road in Canons Gate and wondered why it was lying empty?

The crusading Carly got in touch with the council with a plan to develop it into an allotment 2.0 with not only the chance for people to grow their own food but also a place for people to address their mental health challenges. Social proscribing is the modern word.

But in April 2023, the plot was vandalised. Salt was spread among the soil. Carly was heart broken and made a tearful film on social media channel Tik Tok.

The film went viral.

Carly had already had a little bit of press coverage and so a few nationals, hearing of her plight, covered this story. Before you knew it the BBC and Good Morning Britain were reporting live from the allotment.

Not only was there an outpouring of sympathy, people wanted to help and once people found out about this, people started to make donations. Within a very short space of time over £250,000 had been raised.

Harlow Council and HTS came in and gave Carly lots of advice and support.

However, with many things in life, there comes the paperwork and the red tape.

In fact the last seven months seemed to have been a series of bureaucratic headaches from needing to convert the private limited company she had set up to a community interest company (CIC) through to driving licences and so much more.

Added to that, as we said earlier, Carly has a number of, to put it mildly, health challenges.

Things seem to be moving but moving very slowly. In early October, the paperwork (with help from local lawyers and accountants) for the CIC had been completed and ready to be submitted but the wheels of bureaucracy seem to mean that the CIC has yet to appear on the Companies House website.

And without that CIC, Carly isn’t in a position to sign a lease that will give her access to the allotment.

It must be very frustrating that, at the moment, the £250,000 that people all over the country gave to help, doesn’t appear to be getting to help this Harlow residents in desperate need. Instead, Carly is continuing to appeal for used toys and a whole host of donations for her people.

Harlow Council do not appear to be budging on that one. They can’t lease out the allotment to a private company. They can lease it out to a community interest company.

We have spoken to Carly about this and understandably, she has told us that as solicitors are involved, she cannot say too much.

We didn’t want to make this a “they said, she said” article but more a reflection of where we are and a positive look at where they may be in 2024.

If this was a film, then we think it could be described as “development hell”. In fact, Carly must pass by Princess Alexandra Hospital nearly every day and think that their battle to get a new hospital is a very similar predicament to hers!

What hasn’t been slowing down is the supply and demand for her food parcels that are being delivered most days by her small loyal army of drivers.

From Katherines to Church Langley, her much appreciated meals with love are being delivered whilst the free food from local shops continues to be on offer outside her house. Harlow Council have even made it an official establishment and awaited it 5 stars on their Scores on the Doors chart.

Carly is now close to delivering 3,000 parcels since she started last year.

But if “development hell” is a cliche, then so, perhaps, is a term “victim of their own success”

When someone has a single vision, they can be stubborn and want to do it a very particular way. In fact, you could cast your mind back to Band Aid, Live Aid and Sir Bob Geldof. It was his way or the highway.

And when you have a singular vision and want things done in a particular way, well then it takes time.

On the face of it her comments regarding local charities (in a podcast) “They can be selfish..stop being mean” may seem somewhat undiplomatic but Carly may defend herself saying she speaks as she finds. She has her vision and they have hers.

Yes, people have contrasted her journey with that of Colin Thorpe over in Potter Street where, within a short space of time, Colin identified the land, set up a C-I-O, negotiated with the council, signed the lease and now has a waiting list of people keen to nurture their little strip of Harlow.

But it may be said that Colin doesn’t have the burden/challenge of A Meal With Me With Love and all that entails, physically and emotionally.

We wouldn’t be surprised that the first thing Carly thinks about when she gets up in the morning is the people she wants to feed and it may well also be what she thinks about the last thing at night.

She may also worry that she has to get to the finishing line where she can distribute the £254,000 raised via GoFundMe. Most mortals struggle with the pressure of raising £254 to do the London Marathon. However, when it comes to making sure that money is ready to be distributed, then perhaps you have to get all your bureaucratic ducks in a row.

But you do still worry that this community champion, whose story went global can continue to do things on her own at most or with her small team.

It must be difficult when she has to cancel a day of deliveries to people desperate for food as Carly has yet another hospital appointment.

There are some who do worry that she is taking on too much. Pride hurts but it very rarely helps.

However, let us end on a positive note. We are writing this on a dark night in 2023. By next summer, Carly’s dream allotment could be up and running. Carly may have created a little piece of community heaven off Fold Croft.

People may pass by, people may come from miles around and see what a quarter of a million pound allotment look like.

It could be in years to come that the story of Carly Burd’s allotment will be held up as an example to us all.

Well done to all those organisations that are trying their best to help the people of Harlow through the cost of living crisis. We hope they have a merry Christmas and a great 2024.

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26 Comments for Will Harlow’s community champion Carly Burd ever see her allotment of dreams become a reality?:

David Browning
2023-12-10 20:21:32

£250,000 in the bank, no regard to GDPR and having those in need message this lady through Facebook and then beg for follow up on a public account is a scandalous way to run a business (this isn’t a charity or cic). Recently her boyfriend and children were tasked with judging who was deserving of a Tesco voucher. Not to mention the end of life food left outside on the pavement for people to collect in all weather. I hope this chaotic and humiliating scheme has an audit soon and Ms Burd accepts some basic training in admin and GDPR as her heart may be in the right place but her methods are shocking.

Donna Wallace
2023-12-10 20:48:32

I’m sorry but who the f is this bloke to have a go at our Carly. She isn’t a business so GDPR isn’t relevant. People begging her for food on Facebook messenger is no different from people begging for food on the street. As for saying she needs admin skills, anyone who can feed nearly 3000 people all over Harlow, dealing with who has what food etc, taking on the council, begging shops etc for end of life food, arranging deliveries, drivers and all the donations she receives whilst dealing with disabilities is amazing. I would like to see anyone else do better.

Pat Hull
2023-12-10 21:14:29

Carly IS a business, she's the sole director of A Meal On Me With Love Ltd. GDPR is very relevant, Carly isn't registered with the Information Commissioner, so I'm afraid all that money could be spent on legal fees. What a waste of everyone's time and money this has been.

Jonathan Dale
2023-12-11 00:54:39

This needs looking into. I hope I’m wrong but something’s not adding up. It’s really not that difficult to set up a CIC - it can be done in a matter of days. What is taking so long? And what’s with leaving a pile of food out in front of your house for people to help themselves?

2023-12-11 07:24:17

So knowing Carly personally all I can say is she is an amazing person who is helping her local community.. before you comment negatively... what are you doing?? Took the time to run someone down but no time to help another person in need. but isn't this just the new way, the keyboard warriors who look for injustice while offering nothing or no sacrifice themselves!! Countless days weeks months have been spent feeding Our local community asking for absolutely nothing in return. No matter how she feels she pushes on, a role model to all those with any kind of health issues, that no matter what is thrown at you, you just carry on. Maybe just maybe this is why she "goes it alone" which in fact she doesn't, maybe the people who do help dont want the limelight, no suprise there with how good people can be run down with negativity, when they do nothing but give and support others! Carly may not have crossed the finish line on the allotment but if you actually knew what Carly set out to do it was to help feed people through the cost of living crisis... which she is doing admirably. The allotment was never the be all and end all of her goals! It was getting food to the mouths of harlows vulnerable, in need, children, people of disability and the elderly.... in my personal opinion to spend the whole 250k on a pretty allotment would be a travesty and no doubt if she did this there would haters.. omg what a waste.. where as if she doesn't there will be haters.. omg we demand to know why all the money wasn't spent!! You just can't do right because everyone has an option and opinions constantly differ. So on top of all this yes the red tape.. the miles of it, carly could get the help of half the lawyers / solicitors etc on the planet, but the two hurdles she has been unable to overcome are that of our own government... a driving licence taking literally over 6 months, and now the CIC which is again being held up by our own good old establishment and you can't rush the government. There is nothing more in the world carly would like than to get the allotment done.. the question isn't will carly get this done more of a question of will the powers that be allow carly to get it done as if Carly had her way the allotment would already be well underway. Carry on your amazing work carly. And those that know you know your intentions are something more need to aspire to, and that no matter the outcomes that money will be put back into the community.

Pat Hull
2023-12-11 07:44:47

I'm sure you mean well Dave but I'm afraid you appealing to the court of public opinion is as much use as spitting in the wind, your 'reasons' won't wash in the civil or criminal court. Carly is breaching the GDPR and many other laws and she is going to find herself in very serious trouble. She is data harvesting, she doesn't handle, process or store the sensitive personal information properly and by her own admission is passing it on to her fiance and children. Other people manage to comply with the law, and Carly can't blame the 'good old establishment' for her criminal actions.

Helles Belles
2023-12-11 08:44:44

This whole thing has red flags all over it. From the origin story of the salted allotment until now and the lack of action to be registered as a CIC or charity. Nobody else is involved, meaning nobody else has oversight of financial or personal data governance. Carly was falling over herself at the start, to tell everyone she would be transparent with THEIR money, next thing Wayne comes out of the woodwork and it goes quiet. Swallow your pride, Carly. Realise you’re not the saviour. You have what the charity commission refer to as mission drift and founder arrogance. This isn’t and never was about you - it was about helping people in need. She could have set up as a charity, meaning trustees, governance, regulation, accountability and gift aid. She didn’t. She could have set up as a CIC, she didn’t. She’s now sitting with quarter of a million pounds of good will from other people in her bank account and nobody knows what’s happening with it. Questions can’t be asked without being slated for being negative or being reminded she’s doing it alone, FOR FREE. Arrogant, and very silly. The authorities will come knocking, Carly. I’ve made at least 4 reports and others will too. Good luck.

Colin Thorpe
2023-12-11 09:46:51

Just a correction. The Potter Street & Church Langley Community Garden is run by a registered charity and is a CIO and is not a CIC. A CIC has directors and makes profits a CIO has Trustees and is a non profit making body

2023-12-11 09:52:02

Donna Wallace you could have given Carlz a Santa Drivers Licence for FREE to help her out. I would like to see you do better next time hun

Rock Salt
2023-12-11 10:57:38

I think that the people popping up on here and excusing Carly by saying that "she does so much good" are unhelpful. The whole "A meal on me with love" thing seems to be more about Carly than her service users. I've seen her Facebook page and you literally have people requesting a food parcel then being ignored, being told it has been delayed, or will arrive at an unspecified date. Then she makes bragging posts about how many people she (all by herself, remember?) has fed. She obviously cannot manage this by herself and is compounded by the fact that she's sat on a vast sum of money, donated ostensibly to a charity/community interest group, that is sitting (somewhere) unaccounted for. She's ripe for being scammed as well, noting her rather speedy engagement.

2023-12-11 11:07:35

What’s with all these complaints about Carly leaving food outside her home? I guess you find it offensive. There are many people needing this food and it always goes. Just think yourself fortunate enough that you are not in need. Many are. What are all of you doing to help the less fortunate in Harlow? Oh yes, nothing.

2023-12-11 11:19:48

Why not dissolve the company and start again as a Charity or not for profit company/charity? These are fairly easy to set up. Perhaps work with the Potter Street Community project and benefit from their experience. The assets from the current company could be handled so that they could be donated to the new organisation. There's probably many people who would serve as Trustees voluntarily and Carly could be legally paid for her expertise and work.

2023-12-11 13:18:13

Salt spread across the land mixed evenly in with the soil. Disabled lady too sick to work but can not only take the weight of such a plan on her shoulders but also dig up allotments, plant stuff, collect food shopping, divvy up food, stick brand logos on it and deliver it. Doesn’t know how to work social media yet has all forms of it, including tic tok, has a brand, logo & website and managed to go viral with her damaged allotment videos. Wins awards, goes on tv, turns on Christmas lights like some kind of celebrity but constantly posts about how none of it is about her. Takes near sell by date food supply away from other food banks meaning they are having to close / close early (Bounty being one - meaning the working population who are struggling but can’t claim benefits are unable to get help). Leaves out of date and mouldy food outside her house, unprotected from the elements. Took half a year to sort her driving licence out but has other drivers out delivering. Land can’t be leased but she had the tv crews there and diggers donated to dig the land up. Speedy engagement (none of my business but since she posts about it over social media, she’s putting it out there for judgement). I wonder if she goes food shopping for her own family or just has first pick at the items given to her? Great way to reduce one of your biggest bills. Suspicious. That’s all I’m saying. Maybe if more people like her, with a good heart, creativity and the ability to work, got off benefits and ACTUALLY WENT TO WORK, then the rest of us wouldn’t be struggling as much. I’m disabled. I have chronic pain which affects every part of my body, but I have never been on benefits and I work 3 jobs to try and pay my bills. It kills me. Some days I’d quite like to lay around on benefits dreaming up plans on how I can save the world but the thought of the plan alone would exhaust me for days, let alone the physical side of it! Anyway. Rant over. Back to work I go.

2023-12-11 15:18:41

Knowing Carly for many years, she is a pathological liar and mentally ill. This was never going to end well and it’s very sad for all concerned. For those of you currently sucked in, you will see the real Carly as friends have come and gone all her life.

Anita B
2023-12-11 20:54:16

Re: the food left out for collection, people are concerned because she posted images of her food on her facebook page for ‘ a meal on me with love.’ They were clearly past their labelled use by date and some items were in a bag marked as being for animal consumption only. After this was raised on a page elsewhere, Carly immediately posted saying this was being given for goats and horses. This seems odd given she never mentioned this before and given horses cannot eat any of those things as they have such sensitive digestive systems. It’s also most upsetting to see people asking for food on her facebook page only to be spoken to vaguely and dismissively. ‘I did you the other week’ as one example. She doesn’t acknowledge requests and only seems to use facebook messaging to process requests. She asks recipients to give her positive feedback/praising posts. It all seems very Dickensian and aimed to gratify her ego rather than treating people with dignity. It’s important that charities are not pitched as ‘individual’ favours from one person as to do so can feel humiliating for the recipient. Recently she even had s sort of competition for a food parcel, with her children judging the most deserving. If’s awful to treat people this way.

l harrison
2023-12-12 00:28:01

It really is good to see her ask people to send their stories to her in competition for food vouchers, which her kids will judge. The woman has been shady, treats people as an afterthought (oh sorry love I can't get to you for three weeks xx) when they may well be depending on her, and generally avoids scrutiny.

2023-12-12 16:36:08

Colin Thorpe did try to offer her advice on her Facebook group page and was bullied off by her supporters. In fact, I think she may have blocked him. She doesn’t want to listen to advice, no matter how experienced the person offering the advice is!

2023-12-12 17:57:32

I personally think that the Gofund me should have been stopped stopped well before it got to that amount and instead practical help should have been sought. I get it was from a place with love and the kindness and was a brilliant idea but there are people out there dying and battling for their lives, who are in desperate need of help and support and fulfilling their wishes and dreams, families being torn apart in Her home town aswell....... She is treated like royalty by local council and community when actually those opportunities are being taken away from others.... I know people that have asked for help and apparently you are supposed to remain on a list and in the last year they have had 2 deliveries? And these contain nothing like she shows in the videos she puts on social media! I get her boys have faced challenges but there are kids out there facing even bigger ones and they done whip rounds for presents for her kids, beauty treatment and meals out for the family and loads more! Like £250K isn't enough! What about the terminally ill kids? What about terminally adults? What about their families? Did anyone think of helping them????? I completely agree with majority of comments such as Daisy and Helles Belles.....

open your eyes
2023-12-12 19:21:22

@ DONNA WALLACE If you were told Carly's not a business you were lied to ~ A MEAL ON ME WITH LOVE LIMITED Company number 14822113 1 officer / 0 resignations BURD, Carly Anne Occupation Director

Hells Belles
2023-12-12 19:28:35

Well, as expected, I’ve been absolutely hounded on her Facebook page for asking questions. People don’t seem to want their mate to be accountable. I messaged her when I needed help and was ignore d and now her pals are ganging up on me like she’s above criticism or questions. The council should never give her this allotment. She will only picks and chose who she wants to get fed and who she wants to be involved. The “”elders” she talks about aren’t even arsed about getting involved and she hasn’t asked any of them if they will help anyway. Nobody wants to see people going hungry but she left me and others in the lurch and honestly from what I’ve seen she couldn’t run for a bus never mind run a company/CIC/Charity.

2023-12-12 21:11:28

Hells Bells completely agree, I know of others been ignored originally she stated no judgement etc all confidential, however friends and family seem to know who has had what and why, a friend has been skated and never delivered to again after rumours were said... Other charities are missing out and even the poor man in potter street doing a similar thing that I believe was started before Carly's could do so much or even if she didn't push him away they could have joined forces to help eachother help the community! So many people including celebrities donated to this, she got national coverage and who knows where that money has gone, as someone who donated I want to know!!!

2023-12-12 21:47:23

I have seen the bullying you are receiving Helles Bells. The comments from her friends, Donna Wallace and Nicola Herring, are disgusting. Personal insults, threats and encouraging others to bully anyone who dares to question Carly. They reflect very badly on her! I have never known a charitable organisation and its supporters to act in such an aggressive and unprofessional way! The public are entitled to question an organisation that has raised its funds through public donations!

2023-12-13 08:57:50

She has that amazing ability to draw people in, I and many more was one of them. She has discarded people who question her and move onto others that do not. She is extremely convincing. It's really quite worrying what damage she is capable of. I wish this could be looked into and get her the help she needs mentally.

Helles Belles
2023-12-13 18:16:57

Well @YourHarlow if you’re looking for material for your next story, the comments on here and on your Facebook should keep you going for a while.

2023-12-13 19:34:54

I have been on Carly’s list for a year or so now and to be completely honest I had no idea that all that money had been donated I’ve never seen it mentioned on the ‘a meal on me with love page’ and although I am grateful for anything given I can honestly say I’ve had 2 Bags in over a year and it’s nothing like the photos or videos on the page. I am also worried about my personal information as before I have said I can’t have my real name on Facebook for safety reasons but I have messaged my real details to her so I am now definitely concerned that her kids or partner may have seen it. Unfortunately as good as this seemed it all does seem to be very shady and with all that money in the bank I can honestly say I doubt any is in our interest.

2023-12-13 21:06:21

This is all extremely concerning. I have fears for the service users confidentiality. For example, her children are being asked to judge a ‘competition’ to win Tesco’s vouchers - judging who ‘deserves’ the vouchers the most - clearly they will be privy to the personal information of the vulnerable service users. It beggars belief to be honest. Her supporters have ‘doxed’ one of the service users, going so far as to screenshot information from the users personal Facebook page - what if that person is a victim of domestic abuse and needs to keep their identity secret?! This is being done with the approval of Carly, she even thanks the supporters for defending her (some of these supporters have been aggressive and threatening to anyone who dares to ask questions) . The whole set up is far too ‘personal’. She should have taken the advice offered to her by those with expertise in the area - Colin Thorpe being one such person. But, she has been too stubborn and the service users and people who donated are the ones who are suffering because of her inability to even consider that she may not be able to do everything herself and may not have the necessary expertise. Safeguarding is a huge concern!