News / Projects

Community Payback Projects

projects_picKen Saunders, Chairman of ‘The Friends of Pentylands Country Park’, gives his perspective on the recently undertaken Community Payback projects at the park:

“In the summer of 2011 The Friends joined up with the Swindon probation service to arrange for the Community Payback team to help the Friends with the maintenance and improvement of the Park.

The land comprising Pentylands Country Park (Highworth) is owned by the Borough Council but managed by The Friends of Pentylands Country Park. The borough has no budget provision for the Park, and the little funding that is available is raised by the Friends.nThe Friends work hard to raise funds but even so the cost of projects outstrips the funds available.  The work of the Community Payback team has vastly improved the park not only in appearance but in reclaiming valuable habitat.

Their first outing was on a blazing hot summer’s day when the main task was to mow the community orchard, about an acre of land. On the face of it, a relatively easy task, but in execution it was difficult. The grass was long and tussocky and the ground uneven.

The Payback team worked hard and by the end of the day they had completed the project.  The majority were exhausted and for some it was obviously unaccustomed exercise.

Since then the Payback team have returned to the Park on frequent occasions.  They always work hard, are courteous, have a good sense of humour and for many have a pride in what they achieve. They have carried out a wide range of tasks from mowing the orchard and paths to creating landing squares for skylarks, re-staking and managing the plantations, clearing streams, cutting back hedgerows and reinforcing the boundaries.  Innocuous as they sound, the tasks tend to involve thorns and thistles, stinging nettles and muddy water but the team seem to take this all in their stride. The team have worked in all weathers and only on one occasion when temperatures were sub zero have we needed to cancel their attendance.

The Friends’ policy is to work alongside the team; we provide instruction, advice, explanations as to why we are carrying out the work, risk and health and safety advice and where necessary additional supervision.

Regardless of the reason for being in the park everyone who works there is treated with courtesy, respect and as an equal by the Friends.  The projects we undertake are usually physical and dehydration is always a risk.  The Friends provide refreshments in the form of tea, coffee, juice and biscuits at break periods to combat this. We make it a point to thank the team for their efforts before they leave.  As many of the Payback team spend more than one session in the park this has the benefit  of establishing a rapport between the Friends and the team.

Apart from on one occasion the Payback team has always been supervised by Roy.  He is strict but fair in his dealings with them and it is obvious that those on the programme respect him.  From the Friends’ perspective he is an excellent supervisor, knowledgeable, experienced and possessed of a manner that commands respect.

Some work in the park is seasonal but like the Forth Bridge, there are always tasks throughout the year that need to be done.

During the next few months along with a number of minor projects, we intend to fence our wetland area, strengthen our boundary fences and cage the trees in the community orchard.   We hope that the Community Payback project can be involved in all of these.