Wick Village is a rural community consisting of approximately 400 residents in 200 households and located close to Pershore town. It has always had a strongly united community, working on the basis that local people will be prepared to resolve any issue or concern themselves rather than simply being reliant on local or national government agencies for solutions.
A Village Plan was produced in 2008 looking at the shaping the village over the next few years and this prompted certain actions. In the last year, under the custodianship of the Parish Council, a group of individuals were brought together to review the Plan, the outcomes to date and consider the development of fresh ideas.
Development of Plans
A key driver was the 2011 census as this ‘snapshot in time’ showed the make-up of the village by different levels of age, health, household size and wealth. Also fed into the discussions were the potential impacts of economic cut-backs implemented or being considered by various government bodies.
Against this back-drop 4 key areas where presented to the community to seek feed-back. They were:
- Flood Alleviation
- Good Neighbours Scheme
These were then placed under the overall banner of “Wick Cares” with the aim of ensuring all residents able to participate in village life as much they so desired plus enabling all to lead a full, active and independent lifestyle for as long as is possible with the support of their neighbours.
A Village Meeting heard the proposals from the group and, more importantly contributed their own ideas and issues. From this session, action plans were developed.
As the village is situated on the banks of the River Avon, several properties are prone to severe flooding when water levels rise. In recent years a Flood Alleviation Committee of local residents has:
- Through the Parish Council purchased over 1,000 sandbags stored in key areas around the village, ready for deployment when they may be needed.
- Developed Action Plans covering from Flood Alerts through to Post Flooding tasks.
- Established a list of local volunteers able to rapidly respond to a potential flood event.
- Set up regular dialogue with the various agencies including district and county councils, Environment Agency and local landowners to ensure that as much preventative action is taking as is possible e.g. key drainage and ditch systems maintained.
- Lobbying for grants to improve flood protection.
The lobbying has been successful with funds being set aside by the EA and, working with Wychavon DC we are now waiting to have surveys of the “at risk” properties undertaken in order that bespoke solutions can be implemented.
Good Neighbours Scheme
Although there is already a strong sense of community in Wick, further actions were agreed to enhance the support available to residents.
a) Coffee Mornings
With an ageing population, one issue was to avoid social isolation especially among those who live alone. Therefore, working with the village Club, it was arranged that a weekly coffee morning would be introduced. To encourage awareness and participation every household received a flyer advising the details, with the offer of arranged transportation for those who required such – an offer that at least two residents took up. These mornings have proved popular and attract on average over 20 people per session.
b) Public access Defibrillator
Again with an eye to the well-being of residents of all ages, it was proposed that the village would benefit from having a defibrillator available. To progress this, a small team was set up and one of their first tasks was to contact another village in the area to learn how they had successfully achieved this.
There followed a village appeal for donations and a successful application to the British Heart Foundation. The fund was also boosted by the Parish and Wychavon District Council agreeing that this was a suitable use of New Homes Bonus grant.
Fund raising has been so successful that two public access automated defibrillators have now been obtained and fitted at either end of the village to improve response times. A training session on basic life support and use of a defibrillator has been held with further such sessions planned plus it is proposed that expert speakers will provide guidance on such matters as maintaining healthy lifestyles.
Looking to the future, it is also intended that there will sufficient funds remaining to allow for maintenance over the years as well as leaving an amount towards an eventual replacement programme in the years ahead.
c) Equipment Register
A number of households who have either cared for the elderly or infirm or have looked after young children often have equipment stored away in lofts and sheds that could be of short term use to neighbours .
A register has been devised that lists all such equipment available. This ranges from wheelchairs or walking aids through to infant travel cots. If any villager wishes to make use of such an item, they contact the co-ordinator who puts them in contact with the owner. Occasions when this has proved of benefit is when, for example, an elderly relative is staying for a few days but may not be able to bring all of the walking aids required. Once the visit is concluded, the borrowed equipment is returned to the lender.
Wick has been fortunate in the past to have had a group of villagers raise funds to install and maintain a children’s playground and to have a landowner willing to provide a suitable area for a peppercorn rent.
With the average age of the residents increasing, the playground facilities are these days more used by visiting grandchildren rather than village children. After discussion with the community, it was agreed that some form of recreational activity for the older generations would be welcome to encourage well-being and again avoid isolation.
It was decided that a Petanque Court would be built to enable boules to be played throughout the year. Application for grants were successfully made and supplemented by existing Playground funds. The Court is now ready for use by all villagers and guests and t includes access for wheelchairs.
With threatened cuts to local bus services consideration was given to the impacts to those currently reliant on public transport, as well as being aware that future need would likely increase as the average age of residents’ increase.
A campaign was set up to work with other local villages and towns to respond to Worcester County Council requests for feedback on proposals. This appears to have been successful in that the Council are reviewing their plans.
As some reductions are still expected, we looked at how those impacted might be assisted with alternative means. After investigations, it was decided that the village would link into an existing transport scheme run by Pershore Volunteer Centre. This avoided a heavy administration burden but allows residents an alternative to buses and we have also encouraged local volunteer drivers to sign up with the Centre.
The above was a good example of where we looked to use a nearby scheme rather than “re-invent the wheel”. This approach was also adopted when we considered the bulk purchase of heating oil; rather than try and form our own village group, we encouraged those interested to join in with a neighbouring village scheme.
- It needs a few people to be willing to work on initial ideas and present these to the wider community for validation.
- On-going communication to all residents aids progress and support.
- Parish, District and County council are good sources of information and can help co-ordinate.
- Use people’s particular expertise or skills. Don’t always rely on them to volunteer – ask them to be involved as often individuals are nervous about coming forward.
- Only tackle a small number of projects at one time. Getting one or two implemented quickly encourages future challenges.
- Time taken to explore grants and other charitable funding is well invested.
Not everything we considered has worked – at least not yet.
An example is that we thought of forming Cluster Groups of around 20 households and asking for a leader to be appointed for each. The idea was that these Cluster Leaders would know their surrounding neighbours, easily identify those perhaps needing support and be able to feed in needs to the wider group. However we struggled to get sufficient people interested in being leaders. There were concerns about on-going time commitments.
Potential Future Plans
Again, the village will only pursue those areas which find most support from the community but below are some items that could be tackled next.
Severe Weather Response
In light of the support for the Flood Alleviation work, consideration is being given as to how volunteers might be used in other “emergencies” such as heavy snowfall when the less able may need assistance to clear pathways or village roads need to be cleared.
Men in a Shed
There are a number of residents who have particular skills in DIY and have the necessary tools to carry out these tasks. The idea is that a group of like-minded individuals can work together on projects for the village or vulnerable households. In addition, those people willing to learn might be taught new skills. This would aid the village and also help combat isolation.
“Dragon’s Den” for new Wick projects
Our success to date is based on the majority of the village agreeing with what is proposed and willing to lend support. To identify future suitable project, perhaps through New Homes Bonus funding, residents could be asked to put an outline of their ideas forward along the lines of “Dragon’s Den” – but without the challenging environment.