A Local Conversation project member at the allotment in Haverhill South

Community Action Suffolk has been supporting a Local Conversation in Haverhill South, Suffolk, since 2014. Through the Local Conversation, residents are identifying and addressing shared priorities, including: health and wellbeing; children and young people; community; and environment.

Our local surroundings have an impact on our health by enabling healthy living and creating a safe environment. Having an accessible green space available to the community and creating good air quality helps enable people to build social connections and be physically active. The allotment, owned by Jubilee Allotment Association and rented by the Local Conversation in Haverhill, is a hub of community activity, and has become a lifeline during the pandemic.

Although the changing government regulations and social distancing restrictions to combat Covid-19 have impacted on the project, residents have managed to keep those already connected with the community work engaged, and the Local Conversation’s allotment has proved to be the ‘go to’ place for the project during the summer as it has allowed people to meet outside whilst remaining socially distanced.

Early in the summer the project put procedures in place such as a track and trace log and Covid-19 risk assessment in order to keep all visitors and community members safe. As a result of this preparation, the Allotment Group has been able to invite other local groups to use the space, enabling them to continue to meet even while the other community spaces have been closed.

By hosting other groups at the allotment, relationships and connections have been built which led to holding the first Haverhill South Allotment Partnership meeting. This meeting with members of the local community and other local groups meant that vulnerable and other people beyond the Local Conversation could also have the opportunity to benefit from the allotment and have their say in its development.

Although engaging new families remains a challenge during the pandemic, the project has been busy with different activities such as Adopt a Pumpkin, rock painting, fairy door painting and community trails in order to raise awareness of the allotment among local residents. An impromptu request for plant cuttings has meant that members of the community have been able to share their plants and seeds with the Allotment Group to grow on to redistribute next spring as fully grown plants.

The work on addressing the local environment even continued in residents’ homes during the restrictions, with reports of vegetable patches being developed in residents’ back gardens.

Helen Cullup, Community Development Worker for Community Action Suffolk, said, “It’s been inspirational to see how the local community have responded to the allotment, and the impact it’s made to the community. One resident, Kerry, a mother of four, has described how growing plants has given her a real sense of achievement. She did not think she had green fingers given her track record with indoor plants and has encouraged her youngest children to eat more vegetables.”

The Local Conversation in Haverhill is supported by Community Action Suffolk and funded by People's Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery East. Community Action Suffolk is the ‘go to’ organisation for VCSE sector organisations in Suffolk.

To read more news from the Trust, click here.

Support us, play The Health Lottery!