Working With A Ramblers Association Group At Hope Bagot
St. John the Baptist Church, Hope Bagot, Shropshire, SY8 3AF
‘We were struggling with the amount of grass to cut and rake up, the site had been grazed previously but after the grazing ceased it was becoming neglected. A few of us were trying to get the work done but were in despair with the amount of grass to manage. We were on the lookout for help from any quarter’.
The Stourbridge Ramblers were on a walk in the area and stopped for lunch at Hope Bagot. By chance Charles knew one of them so invited them all to have a drink in his garden. He then asked them if they would come back the next year and help with the churchyard for half a day.
The following year a group of the Ramblers arrived with their own gardening tools and raked up the grass which had been cut a week earlier. They raked it into a windrow near a gate and a local farmer came and baled it. The villagers of Hope Bagot had made a large lunch with several puddings and cider to celebrate and thank the Ramblers. Following the task the Ramblers sat down for lunch with the villagers after which they all played croquet or bowls in Charles’ garden.
This arrangement has been going on for about 20 years now and the Ramblers have made or bought hay rakes which are stored at Hope Bagot, they come to visit at other times of the year and take part in the Christmas Carol service, reading lessons and even bringing raffle prizes.
Costs and Income
There are no recorded costs for this annual event as the Ramblers and villagers do not claim costs.
These donated expenses are:
Food and drink – about 6 members of the community buy then cook food for lunch
Cider – a local brewer donates cider
Fuel – the Ramblers travel from Stourbridge to Hope Bagot
Tools – the Ramblers have made or bought hay rakes
Results and Benefits
The site is now well managed and attractive to visit. It also has a wide variety of plants present with new ones appearing each time it is surveyed (see attached survey sheet). The Shropshire Wildlife Trust are designating it as an Wildlife Site because of the grassland flora.
‘People have an identity with this place although for many of them it is not where they live. Several of the Ramblers have come for years and by doing a task together a job gets done and the community is strengthened’.
Issues and Lessons Learnt
This system has worked relatively trouble free for years.
Key tasks to get in place are:
- Getting the grass cut several days in advance of the day set for the Ramblers visit, this gives some leeway if weather is bad and also time for it to dry for hay if the weather is good. If the grass is cut at least a week in advance then there is also time for seeds to drop in situ.
- Risk assessment and planning of the day, Charles does the risk assessment which is now quick as there is little alteration between the years.
- Organising food, about 6 people prepare lunch, one cooks a large pot of something (Coronation Chicken seems to be a favourite) and others prepare side dishes and puddings.
- Bringing enough tools, the Ramblers ensure that they do this and there are rakes stored at Hope Bagot.
There have been some accidents over the years but these have been relatively minor, slips and bumps generally.
‘Allow people to take responsibility and to make mistakes without criticism. The key thing is to make people feel welcome and thanked. In this case with a really good lunch, jokes and a game.’
In recent years some of the hay has been baled with a hand hay baler which produces small bales that can be sold.
Conclusions and Next Steps
This arrangement has worked very well for the people of Hope Bagot, the Stourbridge Ramblers and also for the management of the churchyard. There are many people who now take responsibility for aspects of organisation making it self-sustaining. A key aspect was the initial energy of both Charles and one of the Ramblers to generate this relationship.
The next step would be to further widen the involvement of the villagers so that Charles is better able to step down when he chooses.
Charles plans to publicise this arrangement in the hope that other similar interest groups will become engaged with a particular site in the same way.
‘I am going to take up the concept with the Ramblers Association so that each group is invited to do a day’s work in the countryside rather than relying on locals and councils’.
Caring for God’s Acre Action Pack Sheets:
Section A sheet 2 Caring for Grassland
Section A sheet 3 Cutting Long Grass and Dealing with Grass Cuttings
Section D sheet 1 Involving Volunteers
Section D sheet 2 Health and Safety
Hope Bagot Church www.hopebagot.org.uk
Download the Hope Bagot Species List: Hope Bagot species list