People Power

By Tara Acton, Community Builder for Livermead, Chelston & Cockington

For nearly four years now, I have been lucky enough to be able to call myself a Community Builder working in the Chelston, Livermead and Cockington area for the Torbay Community Development Trust (TCDT) led, Ageing Well Torbay.

Working in this job means that every day I am reassured by the goodwill and positivity of humankind. It never ceases to amaze me how much people give and care about their surroundings and each other.

I have met people who want to share their passion for exercise by starting up a hula hooping class (for mainly over 50’); a woman who annually dedicates her spare time to organising a local dog show raising money for local charities, a group that want to share their abilities in making and mending by setting up Chelston Shed, fixing up toys for the nursery, making props for theatre groups and turning musical instruments into lamps. I help people to follow their passions, link people up with similar interests, remove barriers (red tape) and spend a lot of time chatting.

One particular project I’ve had the privilege to support is on a triangle of land, previously called “the back” as it’s the back of Goshen, Rosary and Old Mill Road. For at least a decade it has been a wasteland. Prominent features included two dumped cars self-perpetuating fly-tipping and unmentionable small four legged creatures with long tails! It was a state.

Out of curiosity, I knocked on every door in the three roads and invited them to the Community Centre if they would like to see something different on the space. Well in all my years working in communities I have never known a response like it, more than 50 people came along and that passion has consistently driven the developments in the subsequent two years.

Although very necessary the first year of work was frustrating, as it was all remedial: removing dumped cars, cleaning up, and tackling the rodent issue all took time but only got the residents to the start line.

The first significantly positive step was when the group got a small fund and put in a beautiful raised bed, built by the talented aforementioned Chelston Shed. They were also successful in getting some free native fruit/nut-bearing trees, so small steps were happening. They were off to a start.

A big change in pace happened in early 2019 when the residents successfully bid for £25k from the Ministry of Local Government (sounds a lot, but soon it was soon spent). This meant an entire re-landscaping, a natural children’s play area with basket swing and a landscaped architectural projection of how the space can work. The starting line was left for dust.

A local tradesperson happened to be expert in the landscaping work and have access to a digger. A group of residents became experts in laying turf (thanks to a local gardener temporarily out of work); the playground went in and almost overnight attracted more people.

Another person donated rocks for a resident to make a rockery; plants were flying in from left right and centre, and a local teenagers program spread gifted woodchips across the site (thank you Devon Tree Services). A fabulous local lady who had set up a plant shop on Old Mill Road very kindly designed a planting plan for the space…the group were now steaming through the challenges ahead.

Winter is all about benches; a fab woman who runs the local charity shop raised an incredible £500 from a quiz night which has gone towards a hand crafted bench made from tree stumps; the design students at South Devon College are making two picnic benches and locals making three free-standing benches from donated sleepers.

Next summer Goshen Triangle will continue to be used  by a local under five’s group, the local school doing nature learning and more of the popular history nights sharing memories and photos of the triangle from yesteryear

The long term future could see a unique art feature put in place by a local resident, but whatever happens it will definitely be an incredible space with natural growing colour all year round, children playing and people socialising. To think it was once the local dumping ground.

As Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Email: Taraacton@torbaycdt.org.uk  or tel: 07730 792431/01803 212638

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