The Local Conversation in Stanwell supported by Surrey Care Trust

06 May 2021

The Surrey Care Trust has been supporting the Local Conversation in the village of Stanwell, Surrey, since 2016. Some of the funding from People’s Health Trust using money raised by Health Lottery South East has been used to engage the community with their local environment.

It is important that communities can live in safe and accessible local environments, as inequalities experienced in our surroundings impact our health. Studies have shown that on average, a 10% increase in exposure to green space translates into five years of better health.

The Local Conversation in Stanwell has demonstrated the important impacts creating a safe accessible space in the community have on health as well as the opportunities that can come with it.

In February 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to lockdowns around the world, volunteers from the Local Conversation had just started developing a community allotment. Despite the sheer amount of work to be done, volunteers from the community - including a group of youth volunteers from the Phoenix Project doing their Duke of Edinburgh awards, were able to redesign the allotment, creating a sensory path, a children’s mud kitchen and play area, a firepit and a pond, during the first lockdown.

The allotment has demonstrated the importance of having safe and accessible spaces for learning, play and connecting with nature during the pandemic. Families with no access to green space at home were able to go to the allotment to get active and boost their mental health.

The allotment also promotes inclusivity and multiculturalism within the community. Community members with additional needs can attend the space to play, look after chickens, grow their own food or just to be active.

The sensory path created, which includes a walk over bark, through lavender smells, across bamboo and ending at a display of brightly coloured rock paintings, is a space where people of all ages and cultures can connect with themselves and each other through the use of their senses.

The allotment provides an additional space where the community can come together to celebrate different religious and cultural holidays so that diversity in the community of Stanwell can be celebrated by everyone.

Living in a healthy local environment is not just about access to green space, it is also about being able to access good public transport, feeling safe on the streets, removing barriers for disabled people and living in a clean area.

The Local Conversation have run several activities alongside their allotment activities which have helped form social connections and support the community to feel more connected and able to access their local environment.

One example is a treasure hunt which 120 children took part in around the community of Stanwell. The treasure hunt passed by schools, community halls, the allotment and a care home, where children were able to learn more about the history of their community and get to know the people who live there. As one activity on the treasure hunt, children painted posters outside of the care home for residents to hang up in their window.

Other activities have included walks through green spaces combined with litter picking and poster making to encourage people to get out and about in their local green spaces.

The project has also helped to make links with residents and local authority officers and county council representatives, empowering local people to take action and influence positive change in the area.

Monica Runke, Local Conversation in Stanwell Project Lead, said:

“All of these activities have contributed to a community feeling more connected with each other, with their local history and with their local environment. As we continue working with the community more partnerships and projects have been able to be created, giving people of all ages more opportunities to learn, play and connect.”

Activities range from 6 weeks of after school cricket with the England Cricket Board or one-off BMX sessions at the Hawks track in Hayes, day trips to Bedfont lakes to learn about animals and plants, to weekly sessions of afternoon tea, hobby hub, run and walk clubs and choir for the older members of the community.

Feeling connected with our local environments is more than being able to access nature, it is about being able to play an active role in your community in a way that is safe and accessible to all. The Local Conversation has shown that this can be achieved and that Stanwell residents of all ages are feeling the benefits.

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