A COMMUNITY project in Bratton to maintain an orchard and introduce new species of apple, was chosen as ‘best community initiative’ at an awards ceremony last week. The Hope Nature Centre at Southwick also received an award for its community work.
Organised by Wiltshire Council and NHS Wiltshire, the Voluntary and Community Sector Awards, took place at the Corn Exchange in Devizes on Tuesday 4th October.
The aim of the awards ceremony is to celebrate people and groups who have worked on exceptional or innovative schemes that help to transform the lives of people in the county.
The Reeves Orchard Community Project in Bratton was voted by the audience as the best community initiative nominated by an area board, and received £1,000 to go towards the project.
Mike Pearce of Reeves Orchard said, “We weren’t expecting this at all, it was the biggest shock! It was voted for by the audience on the night, and we will be using the money to create a new path. It will make a huge difference to the orchard. There were a lot of wonderful groups [at the award ceremony] but I think we were something a bit different.”
The orchard was given to the village by the Reeves family, founders of the ironworks which once dominated the village – and is home to a wide range of apple species. Now, thanks to the work of volunteers, an adjacent plot has been opened containing only Wiltshire apple trees. Bratton Parish Council oversee and maintain the orchard but the work of caring for the trees, pruning and planting is all done by local volunteers.
Hope Nature Centre
The Hope Nature Centre was also awarded for their “most inclusive approach”, and had also been nominated for the social enterprise category. The centre at Southwick Country Park provides meaningful occupation for young adults with learning disabilities. The centre sees the young people help out in the tearoom, care for animals, help maintain the ground and appreciate nature. The group has also developed the surrounding 15 acres into a nature park which is used by playgroups, schools and older people. The young adults work there on a voluntary basis and the café is now self financing.
The awards scheme was completely funded by sponsorship from partner organisations and businesses in the county. The major sponsor was The Consortium and other sponsors included Wiltshire & Swindon Community Foundation, Selwood Housing, Silva Social Enterprise, Aster Group and Devizes Town Council.
Wiltshire Council’s deputy leader, John Thomson said, “These volunteers are an inspiration to us all as they demonstrate the wonderful work that is taking place in all our communities.
“We know they do not carry out this work for recognition but for a desire to help others and to make their communities better places to live – for that we want to thank them.”
NHS Wiltshire chairman Tony Barron said, “The voluntary and community sector makes a huge contribution to the quality of life in Wiltshire. It’s easy to focus on the scale of that contribution – with nearly 8,000 organisations, ranging from the very small to the very big – but it’s also important to focus on the individuals whose time, effort and dedication together make up that huge contribution.
“This is what we celebrated at the VCS Awards ceremony, and I am proud to have been able to help acknowledge and recognise the value that volunteers contribute to our communities across Wiltshire.”
Pictured below: Rosemary Macdonald, chief executive for the Community Foundation for Wiltshire (far right) presents the Hope Nature Centre with their award.