One day Ben Thornbury agrees to help his neighbour cut an overgrown hedge. After their handiwork is posted online, the entire town rallies together. So begins a huge community initiative that has continued to grow for over 6 years ...
I was eleven years old when I spotted my neighbour, Julie, working in her garden. It was a warm sun-shiny kind of day, and the smell of cut grass made me feel lively. I popped my head over the fence, and Julie and I got talking.
“I’ve seen you’re very good with a lawn mower and gardening tools,” Julie said. “There’s a hedge growing over the pathway near here. It’s become so overgrown. I was planning to cut it back myself. Would you like to help out?”
I loved the idea of helping Julie and our community. We agreed to cut the hedge the following Sunday. My brother Josh, aged 8 at the time, also came along to help us. We wheeled Julie’s garden bin down to the hedge, which the council were responsible for. All three of us tackled away at it until we reduced it.
We posted photos of our handiwork on ‘Our Malmesbury’, our local Facebook Group. The community reaction was amazing. One person, a wheelchair user, was so grateful that they didn’t have to go on the road anymore to pass the hedge. The comments and reactions just kept on coming. The whole town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire seemed to embrace our team spirit and felt inspired to follow our lead. Many people raised their hands to volunteer and do more to keep our town tidy. This was the beginning of many community projects completed by volunteers in our community.
From planting trees around the town, to picking up litter, pulling trolleys out of rivers, to planting daffodils. Volunteers showed up (and continue to show up) to tidy local flower beds, plant wildflowers, and clean up after vandals.
With many willing hands, our town has transformed. Before, the town looked a bit run down, but now, the place looks cleaner and tidier. Residents comment how amazing the daffodils look when they flower and make the place brighter.
To keep the projects going, I managed to sort funding through local businesses and associations. We also won various grants to support our projects. When it comes to grants, I used a website online that lists available grants. When I first tried to apply, I wasn’t of legal age. So Julie applied on our behalf. The funding has helped us obtain trees, plants, tools, and gardening equipment. We even won a grant to fund the planting of Queen apple trees in time for the Platinum Jubilee Celebration.
When we first started, everything was done out of my parent’s garage. I started with nothing, just borrowing equipment we already had lying around the house. But as time went on, donations came in from the local community. Our garage got filled up so quickly with brushes, gardening tools ,and even donated power tools like leaf blowers. It got so big, we had to move this all to Julie’s spare garage.
I created a dedicated Facebook page and website to support our projects. Our Facebook Page 'Helping The Community Of Malmesbury' currently sits at 669 members and is a place for all the locals to share what litter picking and cleaning up they have been up to. When community members plan a clean-up, they can contact us via the website to access any tools and equipment they need to complete a project.
I’m so pleased that 6+ years later, the clean up campaign is still in full-swing. I have just been so overwhelmed with the support over the years that I cannot thank the community enough. Our mission will not stop.
We hope our story will inspire other communities around the world to do the same.
Meet Ben Thornbury
Hi, I'm Ben Thornbury, aged 17, from Malmesbury, Wiltshire (and that's Julie with me in the picture below). I am the head volunteer of 'Helping The Community Of Malmesbury', which has been running for 6+ years. We aim to tidy the town and keep it looking like a nice place.
Connect with me, and find out more about our work here ...