Marlborough's communities have been working hard to showcase just how the town comes together to improve its neighbourhoods. Twelve local and very different areas entered the RHS It's Your Neighbourhood campaign, a non-competitive scheme where assessments are made on five different levels based on Community Participation, Environmental Responsibility and Gardening Achievement.
On Thursday 28 July Andy Cole, a National Britain in Bloom judge, toured the town to look at each group's project and spend time talking to volunteers about their work to develop and improve the areas they live in. The scheme is aimed at community engagement, long term improvements including sustainability, recycling, conservation, litter and graffiti reduction and green space development.
Our first visit was to Manton Village where Clare Russell, Secretary of the Marlborough in Bloom Committee, and a group of enthusiastic volunteers showed us with pride the beautifully planted handmade troughs along the High Street. Area Board money has been used to good effect to improve their lovely recreation ground and future plans include a new pedestrian path to improve safety for the village children.
His next visit, to the garden of St Peter & St Paul's Church, was very successful. We were met by Beryl Stunt, who has recently agreed to head up the devoted band of volunteers who have worked tremendously hard pruning the overgrown trees and shrubs and planting up the colourful beds and borders surrounding this historic church. Together with Jeremy York and Jill & Brian Wallis, Judge Andy Cole assessed the garden and heard about their achievements over the past year and future plans to create a wildflower mini-meadow at the eastern end of the site.
A highlight of the tour was his visit to the Stonebridge Wild River Reserve and Stonebridge Meadow. Anna Forbes guided us round the 7 acre site bordered by the River Kennet and detailed the impressive variety of activities that are organised to preserve the rare chalk stream and engage young and old volunteers in caring for nature.
The Stonebridge Allotments also scored high on Community Participation and Gardening Achievement. Roger Harris, Chairman of the Marlborough Allotments Association, explained that the site, a water meadow subject to flooding and overgrown with perennial weeds, took two years to clear. Working with Estates Manager Richard Beale and volunteer allotmenteers, the ground was gradually brought into cultivation. Today the plots grow vegetables, fruit and flowers and one enterprising gardener has even installed a solar panel on his shed to power lighting for the dark days of Winter.
At Rogers Meadow, an area on the fringe of the town where many of the households are without gardens, the local people turned out in force to share the joys of a community orchard. Apple varieties Discovery, Bennoni, Elstar, Cox's Orange Pippin and Red Falstaff, planted by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, are now cared for by Marlborough Community Orchard volunteers. We were entertained by Richard Paget's demonstration of apple pressing and sampled his delicious apple juice with homemade cakes and an exhibition of the work of Marlborough Community Orchard staged by Phillipa Davenport.
Marlborough in Bloom Chairman Anne Crawley commented, "I really enjoyed taking Judge Andy Cole around our town. The enthusiasm of local people to work together to improve the areas they live in installs real civic pride and it obviously has a knock-on, positive effect on the local economy and tourism.I have high hopes that we will do very well when the results are announced on 6th October.
Marlborough groups entered into the It's Your |Neighbourhood Scheme are: Stonebridge Wild River Reserve and Stonebridge Meadow, Stonebridge Allotments, Coopers Meadow, Plume of Feathers Garden, The Waterfront Garden, St. Peter's & St. Paul's Church Garden, Manton Village, Marlborough Community Orchard, The Merchant's House Garden, Old Hughenden Yard, River Park and Hilliers Yard.