Heather Berry lives in Bolton and is the winner of Nextdoor’s Neighbourhood Sustainable Champion of the Year award for her incredible efforts greening her local area. We chatted to her about the ways you can transform your neighbourhood and bring joy to your local community.
How did you get involved in community projects?
“It all began when I retired, I needed things to do and I had time on my hands. I feel I’ve been very lucky in life, I’ve had parents who have looked after me and a long and happy marriage. It’s those things that allow you to be the best you can be. I felt I needed to pay it forward so I started volunteering for Urban Outreach. They do things like packed lunches for children in the summer holidays and present boxes for families or people who are struggling at Christmas. I also try to get down once a week to the food hub to help out there.”
“I saw a local litter picking event and decided to give it a go, I wanted to give my local area an uplift. The idea of the event was to litter pick but form a local group, which I ended up running. It was then that I became part of the Bolton Litterpicking community!”
What does this community work bring to you? Why do you do it?
“I’m a big believer in bringing communities together. I want to help the town look better and give people a sense of pride. As I’ve done more and more volunteering, I’ve realised people don’t know where to begin. A lot of people think the council should do things, but you can get up and do it yourself! There is a gap and you can fill it.”
“People often say to me that the bulbs I’ve planted around the neighbourhood brighten their day and inspire them to look after the area, and that makes me incredibly happy.”
How did litter picking lead to creating a community garden?
“Litter picking gives you a lot of local knowledge, as I was walking around my local area, I found loads of green spaces, most of them unmaintained. Pockets here and there that were perfect for a little spruce. There was one particular piece of land that our group kept coming back to, it was often a hotspot for fly-tipping, just near an electricity substation. Although we kept removing fly-tipping, it wasn’t enough of a deterrent so I thought let’s try doing something different. That’s where the community garden began.”
How did you transform the land?
“We started by clearing the brambles, took out the weeds and spread some wildflower seeds. We talked to some of the neighbours and got a group of volunteers together. Soon we were raising the level of the trees, reforming the path that runs through the area and planting flowers.”
“We try to recycle unused fly-tipping so we created flowerbeds within discarded tyres and we have a plan to create a pond from an old bath. One neighbour donated a bench to the community garden and neighbours have enjoyed picnics there. One volunteer who worked for Bolton at Home, the local housing association, helped us get support from the local authority. We also had to get North West Electricity to look at the site for cables. Bolton at Home provided us with a skip to help us clear the land and gave us wood chips for the path. We are now fundraising to get a proper cut path to make the site wheelchair accessible. We’re hoping to have a Halloween event this year too!”
How do you use Nextdoor? How has it helped your groups?
“Nextdoor is a very important platform for us because it’s so local. Our volunteers post about events and local activities to encourage neighbours to join us. We often post positive news about our progress which helps to build momentum and makes neighbours feel better about where they live. It’s easy to use and helps us to reach lots of local residents.”
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
“More work on the community garden, helping other groups to get going on their community patches and working with the local council on solutions to stop fly-tipping. There’s much to do!”
If you’re interested in creating a local greening project, sign up to Nextdoor and start talking to your neighbours.