Share the love this Christmas in Elmbridge and beyond

Around this time of year we tend to buy a little extra with the weekly shop and put it away for Christmas. During the festival we like to spoil our family with the kind of treats we don’t have all year round; rich, warming foods that set us up for winter. You may be surprised to know that in 2015 an nef study commission by Walton Charity found that 2,300 children live in poverty in Elmbridge.

Relative poverty is measured as 60% below the median household income and the definition is determined as families who cannot afford an ‘ordinary living pattern’. These families struggle in affluent Elmbridge to make ends meet. Housing, to buy or rent is among the most expensive in the UK. Unexpected bills, health issues, and changes to benefits or work patterns can quickly deliver these families into crisis.

There is a foodbank in East Elmbridge with two distribution centres. One is located at Esher Green Baptist Church, 6 Park Road, Esher, KT10 8NP and is open on a Tuesday from 10.00 to 11.00 am.  While the other is held at St Peter’s Church in Walton Road, West Molesey KT8 2QF and is open on a Thursday from 10.00 to 11.00 am.  There are two other foodbanks in Elmbridge, one serving Hersham and Walton and the other serving Cobham.

Generally, the foodbank will provide enough food for three days to tide over a crisis but increasingly, the food bank staff are seeing the same families returning as they struggle to get off the breadline, even though many are in working households. When you have no savings any additional payment will push you into debt. The East Elmbridge foodbanks have collection boxes in Hurst Park Tesco and Waitrose in Esher. They are generally well-stocked with essentials like beans and pasta but find that self-esteem suffers when people are unable to keep themselves and their homes clean. They need more donations of toiletries for men and women, razors, toilet rolls, sanitary products, shower gel, household cleaning items such as washing up liquid and soap powder for washing clothes. The foodbank team described the desperation of a woman unable to send her daughter to school in clean clothes because she didn’t have any soap powder. Also comfort items lift the spirits such as a biscuit with a hot, sweet drink. The food bank is rarely given sugar yet people use this in their tea and coffee and regularly ask for it.  Equally, desserts such as tinned custard, individual steamed puddings, tinned fruit or rice are rarely donated but would be very welcome. The food bank is currently out of pet food which it provides to those who need to feed a beloved pet. In some cases the pet is the only comfort for some who live in isolation.

At Christmas these families cannot afford the rich treats we all enjoy. Aware of the need to reach out at this time the Elmbridge foodbank will be at Tesco at Hurst Park for three days from Thursday 30th November to Saturday 2nd December asking people to donate one Christmas item to the box.  The list below gives an idea of suitable products so perhaps next time you are shopping you can pop one in the box. Just knowing that there are people who care when you are in crisis can be the difference between struggling through and giving up. So let’s spread the love this Christmas and beyond by popping one or two items into the box all year round.

Christmas list: 

Tinned ham • Tinned salmon • Pickle / Mayonnaise • Mince pies • Christmas pudding • Custard • Christmas Cake • Fruit juice (long life) • Soft drinks • Crisps / nuts Thank you!

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The hidden hunger of Surrey’s expanding food bank service

At a showing of I Daniel Blake at the new Thames radical cinema which meets monthly at the Riverhouse Barn in Walton, I met Bronte Schiltz an active Labour Party member who informed the audience that she volunteers in a local food bank. If you have seen Ken Loach’s award winning film you will recall the powerful scene when the two central characters queue up to use a food bank and the young, single mother opens a tin of baked beans when no-one is looking and scoops them into her mouth to stave off her hunger.

In Surrey they don’t queue round the block to use the food bank so you could be forgiven for thinking this is just an inner-city problem or a regional issue. Here the poverty is largely hidden as the food bank will bag up the groceries for you and deliver them to your door. Bronte recalls the desperate thankfulness of those who are provided with three days emergency food. You can’t just walk in off the street and help yourself. You have to be referred by the job centre, the school, citizen advice bureau, local councillor or GP. One such person was an 80 year old grandfather who informed Bronte that he had a job interview coming up as he needed money to feed his grandchildren. He was hopeful that he wouldn’t need to return and as she went through to the other room to fill some bags with food she found it heart-rending that this proud man had been let down by our welfare system.

When Bronte isn’t helping out at the food bank or working as the publicity officer for Thames Radical Cinema she works as the English Intervention Tutor at Esher Church of England High School where 25% of the children live below the poverty line. She explained that the food bank is essential in the school holidays when the children are unable to access free school meals. She wants to know why Surrey, one of the richest boroughs in the country, has over 34 food banks in operation with more food packages provided every year. When the issue was raised at a local husting in the 2017 election Dominic Raab the MP for Esher and Walton was not in attendance and other audience members felt that the question of food banks was not ‘a local issue’.

They clearly had not read the Inequality in Elmbridge report which contained official figures showing that 2,300 children – 8.7% of those under 16 – in Elmbridge live in poverty (where household income is below 60% of national median earnings).

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In a Guardian article on the subject well-to-do Gareth relates the following experience after becoming “startled” by what happened in his local Tesco at 8pm; “I couldn’t believe what I saw. A large group of people were hovering around the vegetable section. A man came along and reduced all of the food. Then it was a free-for-all and I have never seen anything like it in my life. A cabbage which was probably £1.50 was reduced to 20p and it was a fight to get the food,” he recalls. “I guess these people live in Elmbridge, I don’t know.

Hidden, but growing, the need for food banks continues to rise across Surrey and Bronte confirmed that Surrey food banks gave out more than 14,000 three day food parcels in 2016/17, an increase of almost 20% on the previous year. This situation is likely to become much worse as Universal Credit is rolled out in the run up to Christmas. The Trussell Trust reports a steep rise in areas where Universal Credit has already been implemented and claimants are paid in arrears with six weeks or more delay for the first payment.

According to the Trussell Trust statement; “it’s no surprise that trying to live off so little for an entire month can lead to destitution and hunger. Most households had been unable to afford heating, toiletries or suitable shoes or clothes for the weather. 78% had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time, often multiple times a year.

Once a household falls into debt it is near impossible to make ends meet and pay off what is owed. When you lose a short-term contract you go back to the start of the process.

In a recent vote, calling for a pause in the roll-out of Universal Credit, Conservative MP’s failed to show up to the House to either defend their policy or to vote. If you don’t turn up for your benefit appointments you get sanctioned and given another six week hold on payments. The Trussell Trust confirms that the three main reasons people use the food banks are benefit delays, low income and benefit changes.

Yet in the run up to the last election Dominic Raab stated on TV that “The typical user of a food bank is not someone that is languishing in poverty, it is someone who has a cash flow problem episodically”.

Bronte described this response as, “ignorant and callous to brush it off as minor or temporary.”  Mr Raab hasn’t written about the use of food banks for his constituency blog since February 2014 where he links to an article he wrote for the Telegraph.  Mr Raab was paid £220 for the article and registered it as 2.5 hours work. Earning £88 per hour in addition to his main salary it must be difficult for him to understand the need for food banks and in his search for a reason he blames global markets, trade barriers and the EU Common Agricultural Policy – everything in fact except government welfare reforms and puts the interfering Bishops in their place with the following statement taken from his article in the Telegraph; “But the bishops’ blunt claim that welfare reform accounts for more than half of those using food banks displays a reckless disregard for the facts, and wilful ignorance of the underlying causes.”

Maybe it is time that Mr Raab took another trip to the food bank in Cobham he opened in 2013 but has failed to attend since. Hugh Bryant, who runs the Cobham Food bank, said: “Although Mr Raab opened our food bank it’s a shame he hasn’t been in touch to check the figures.”

Ken Loach has questioned why the rich are incentivised with bonus packages and perks while the poor are driven by hunger and homelessness. Here’s another pesky member of the clergy, Giles Fraser, writing about his experience of answering his door to an increasing number of destitute parishioners. He argues that Universal Credit was designed to blame the poor for their poverty and force them to accept low pay, poor working conditions and zero hour contracts; “there are those who would characterise this as “workhousing” – that is, deliberately making life so intolerable for poor people that they are forced into doing absolutely anything to keep themselves off the streets“.

Universal Credit stems from pure ideology and has cost more than it has saved. As the millionaires of Westminster increase the levels of poverty across the country they are protected from the reality of life on the breadline with their entitlement to taxpayer perks and second incomes. When they fail to turn up to even defend their policy, just as they failed to turn up to defend their record in the last election it gives off a stench of arrogance. Low paid work with inconsistent hours does not ‘set you free’ in fact the very opposite, it traps you in a cycle of debt and despair as you make daily choices between paying the bills, heating the house or feeding your family; a shocking indictment in 21st Century Britain.


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Jigsaw Trust: Inspired By Autism

Jigsaw Trust is a local charity based on Dunsfold Park in Surrey supporting children and adults with autism. Operating Jigsaw School for children aged 4-19 years and Jigsaw Plus for adults aged 18 and over. The aims of Jigsaw Trust are to improve the lives of those with autism and to promote a greater knowledge and understanding of the disorder. Founded on the principle of excellence through continual learning, the Trust aspires to provide the highest quality of education and lifelong learning possible.

Jigsaw, like most schools, teaches the National Curriculum. In addition, there is a focus on developing communication and life skills, providing a positive and fun learning experience for the pupils. The Jigsaw Plus Centre for Lifelong Learning provides opportunities for clients to explore various vocational, learning and wellbeing activities in a safe and supportive environment.

Jigsaw Trust’s professional approach to supporting individuals with autism comes through in every aspect of what they do. With 1-1 and small group teaching, Jigsaw School is able to ensure that each child is getting the necessary attention that they need to flourish. The adults in the Jigsaw Plus programme receive the same level of support, with a comprehensive curriculum focusing on a range of vital subjects divided into six main categories; key skills, independent living skills, personal development, improving well-being, vocational skills and creative & performing arts.

The charity aims to accelerate learning and promote the ability to learn in new ways, whilst simultaneously acquiring the necessary skills to learn independently through behavioural methods. Based upon the Applied Behaviour Analysis technique (ABA), Jigsaw provides comprehensive and highly individualised programmes which teach verbal, cognitive and social skills, thereby increasing independence. All of this is carried out by a highly-trained team of staff of the highest standards within this sphere of teaching and learning. In addition, Jigsaw Trust has one of the UK’s leading behavioural experts as its Director of Education and ABA Consultant; an active Governing Body and Board of Trustees, as well as eminent, visiting consultants in the field of ABA from Columbia University, New York and Nicholls State University, Louisiana.

Jigsaw Trust not only has as incredibly dedicated and highly-trained faculty, it also boasts an impressive set of facilities. The Tardis-like school building is modern, spacious and well-equipped; the colourful, art-filled walls create a fun and welcoming space that any child would be glad to spend their days in. Most impressive of all are the specialist rooms that provide fun, safe and calming environments for the pupils. The quality of the facilities on offer at Jigsaw are thanks in no small part to the kindness and generosity of trusts, foundations, local businesses and individuals without whom the charity would never have been able to afford such wonderful equipment. The fundraising never stops, however, as in order for Jigsaw Trust to continue providing their crucial services, the facilities must be continually added to and upgraded in a manner that tuition fees alone cannot manage.

Being able to provide pupils and clients with the right equipment to learn and develop skills is a vital component of what Jigsaw Trust does. It is for this reason that the importance of fundraising donations cannot be underestimated. Without them Jigsaw would not develop and expand to provide the range of resources and equipment that are so important for their pupils. Thanks to donations made in the past, the school has been able to add a sensory room, food tech room, early years sensory play area and a library among others.

Want to help?

There are so many ways you can get involved with Jigsaw Trust and help them make a difference in the lives of their service users.


One-off or regular donations are so important to Jigsaw Trust. Whether you are able to make a personal donation, organise a fundraiser or sponsor Jigsaw through your business, your donation will go so far towards providing quality resources for the pupils and clients. To find out more about making a donation, click here.


If you are unable to make a donation, what about giving some of your time to help Jigsaw Trust? There are ongoing opportunities to volunteer for Jigsaw, who are looking for enthusiastic and reliable volunteers to help across the charity. Out of pocket expenses will be paid. There is flexibility with working hours and days, however consistent commitment is required. To find out more about volunteering for Jigsaw Trust, click here.

Spread The Word

Another great way to help Jigsaw Trust is simply to spread the word! Follow their social media accounts and help by sharing their posts to your friends, family and/or followers.

Jigsaw Trust on Facebook: click here

Jigsaw Trust on Twitter: click here

Other Ideas?

If you’ve got other great ideas about how to help, then click here to contact Jigsaw Trust.

Jigsaw Trust Jigsaw School autism Surrey charity

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The Include Choir: hitting all the right notes with their inclusive approach

Every Wednesday at 7:30pm something magical happens at Redhill Baptist Church. This is the time and place where The Include Choir convene to perform songs together in a celebration of inclusiveness and acceptance.

The Include Choir, as the name suggests, is all about inclusion. The main aim of the choir, set up by specialist speech and language therapist and musician, Alix Lewer, is to highlight the importance of inclusive communication, and how that promotes social inclusion.

A lot of people (with learning disabilities, dementia, post-stroke or brain injury) can find understanding and using words alone a challenge. The Include Choir’s emphasis on inclusive communication mean that all forms of communication  are respected and used, not just speech. The choir uses evidence-based communication techniques (Makaton signing, pictures, easy words, body language, objects etc) to show people what can help, whilst simultaneously making the choir itself more accessible and inclusive to its members.

Include Choir inclusive communications communication disabilities Surrey charity

By using these inclusive communication techniques in rehearsals and when they perform, The Include Choir hope to raise awareness of communication disability, something they fear is often overlooked or misunderstood in wider society. Over 1 million people in the UK have a learning disability, and around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autistic spectrum; yet social isolation is still a real challenge, as it is for people with dementia or other acquired communication difficulties. This is something the choir aim to educate the public on, whilst also helping those who are dealing with such challenges. In addition, the choir helps to form skilled and inclusive communication partners of its members, which they hope will lead to the creation of more inclusive communities for people who find understanding or using words alone challenging.

Include Choir inclusive communications communication disabilities Surrey charity

Music is a universal language that we all share and enjoy. It is therefore the perfect way for Alix and co to work alongside, provide support for and learn from people who experience communication needs. It doesn’t stop at the choir though, as the parent organisation (currently registering as a CIO) is taking this even further with plans to raise awareness across the county and beyond, and help create support for people with communication needs in all organisations and communities, through training, campaigning and inclusive services.

Include Choir inclusive communications communication disabilities Surrey charity

The Include Choir has done so much since its formation, with support and membership growing fast. However, with big plans to get the choir heard across Surrey, and to help as many people as possible, it’s vital that the public get behind this wonderful initiative.

If you wish to help support The Include Choir, here are six easy ways you can do so:

  1. Subscribe to the Include Choir YouTube Channel
    The Include Choir puts out loads of great video content and their YouTube channel serves as a hub for the choir to promote the fantastic work they do. An easy way to show your support and get behind The Include Choir is to simply subscribe to their channel and share their videos with the world. Click here to visit their YouTube channel. If they can reach 100 subscribers, they would be able to have their own url (You Tube Address) which would help make the channel more accessible to people with learning or literacy needs.
  2. Shop online with Easy Fundraising
    That’s right, you can raise money for The Include Choir just by shopping. Simply follow this link to the Easy Funding website and select The Include Choir as your charity. You can then collect free donations for The Include Choir while you shop. They don’t take any financial details from you, and it doesn’t cost anything.
  3. Become an Executive Committee Member
    As the choir has grown from strength to strength, it understandably needs more hands on deck. Perhaps you have what it takes to make The Include Choir even better in years to come, and would be interested in giving your time for just 4 meetings a year with a great bunch of people. You are welcome to visit as a guest to see what it’s all about. Just click here to email or phone Alix on 07446 897835.
  4. Come and sing!
    An inclusive choir is only inclusive if singers without learning or communication disabilities lend their voices too. Fancy joining the choir? Rehearsals are Wednesdays, 7:30-9:00pm at Redhill Baptist Church. For more details, please click here to email the Include Choir  or phone Alix on 07446 897835.
  5. Volunteer
    As the organisation grows, both the Include Choir and are looking for people with a range of skills, so whether you are local to Redhill or not, you may well be able to help. To find out more, click here to go to the Do-It Trust Website to see the range of roles, or click here to get in touch.
  6. Donate
    The Include Choir is run entirely by volunteers who work really hard to secure the funds to keep the choir running. If you would like to help, you can give a single or regular donation via Golden Giving. Click here to visit their Golden Giving page. Every little really helps!

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Have you heard about Surrey-based charity LinkAble?

Meet LinkAble: the Surrey charity empowering those with learning disabilities

Since 1989 LinkAble has been helping children, young people and adults with learning disabilities by providing a range of sporting and social activities in and around the community. The charity, based in Woking, supports individuals with a broad range of learning disabilities, and offers a range of activities for all ages. This support is offered from early childhood with no upper age limit, enabling friendships to be developed and maintained, potentially for life – something the service users and their families say is very important for them.

LinkAble operate the majority of their activities out of a purpose designed building called The Link, which was refurbished with the specific needs of their users in mind in 2014. The premises features a special playroom with sensory equipment to help stimulate and engage users, an indoor soft play area and an outdoor play area with an accessible climbing frame. The main hall supports a range of group activities from discos and quizzes to table tennis and yoga. There is even an outside area used to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables that can also be utilised as an area for a range of social and play activities.

LinkAble have a simple mission statement: “to enable those with learning disabilities to develop their potential and enjoy socially inclusive fulfilled lives” – and this is clearly reflected in all the work that they do. However, despite doing such a wonderful job in Surrey for so many years, the team at LinkAble worry that many families and individuals who could benefit hugely from the services they provide are still not yet aware of what they offer.

LinkAble divides its services into three different age groups; Children (ages 4-11), Youth (ages 12-17), and Adult (age 18+).  The activities for children focus on enabling play and enjoyment, connecting with others and developing friendship through social interaction, and development in a safe and secure environment. The main activity for this age group during term time is Saturday Play which runs from 10am-2pm for 39 weeks of the year and is extremely popular with the children and their families. During the school holidays the charity provide four weeks of summer activities, one week at each of the three half terms and at Easter and two days at Christmas.

The youth age group have their own set of activities which focus on enabling choice and fun, developing social interaction and making friends and connecting with others. This is achieved during term time via a weeknight youth club in Surrey Heath, as well as a Saturday activities session from 2:30-5:30pm for 39 weeks of the year. In school holidays LinkAble provide four weeks of summer activities, one week at each of the three half terms and at Easter and two days at Christmas.

In addition to the above, LinkAble provides Transition Groups for young people aged 16+ to help them adjust to adulthood. These groups run for people aged 16-25 and include drama, music and social groups, as well as the High Notes Choir which is open to anyone aged 16 and over.

Much of the support for adult users of LinkAble’s services focuses on building key skills for living and nurturing independence. In addition to this, the charity also helps adult users by enabling social interaction and friendships whilst encouraging them to try new things and have fun. This is mainly achieved via the We Can Do Anything programme which has been developed from the activities funded by the Big Lottery Fund. This key programme now offers a range of daytime courses covering anything from health and fitness to craft and enterprise skills, and is something the charity are keen to develop further. In addition, LinkAble also offer their adult users a range of other activities including social groups, drama, sport, music and the High Notes Choir, as well as a regular nightclub evening which is very popular and often has over 200 attendees. There is even an annual ski trip for a group of adult service users.

Want To Help?

One way in which we can all help the charity continue to raise its profile is by simply following their social media accounts and sharing their posts so that more and more people can see what great work they do.

LinkAble on Facebook: Click here

LinkAble on Twitter: Click here

LinkAble is heavily dependent on voluntary donations and fundraising. Every time they receive a gift from generous supporters making a donation, taking on a fundraising challenge, putting on an event or encouraging others to do likewise, it plays a vital role in continuing to enable their vital work. LinkAble currently runs over 20 groups and activities each week and it is support like yours which will continue to make this possible – it costs the charity over £100,000 every year to keep their services running.

If you would like to find out more about fundraising or making a donation to LinkAble then please click here.

In addition to financial support, there are also a number of volunteering roles available. To find out more, please click here.

LinkAble Woking Surrey charity learning disabilities

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Meet the cat rescue charity with big plans in Surrey

Founded in 2014 by a small number of devoted cat lovers, Here For Cats is a Surrey-based cat rescue and re-homing initiative. Earlier this year the group of volunteers achieved the landmark goal of becoming a registered charity, and are now setting their sights on bigger things.

The charity seeks to help cats in need in the Surrey area by providing shelter, warmth, food, veterinary care and love, and then finding suitable new homes. This is currently achieved using custom-built pens in volunteer back gardens, as well as relying upon foster-homes to help care for the cats. The big plan, however, is to open a purpose-built cat rescue centre in the near future.

Naturally the main focus of the new centre will be the rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing of cats; but it will also act as an educational hub from which the charity can promote responsible pet ownership. Building on this premise, the charity also intend for the facility to provide a resource to be used by, and to benefit, the entire community; with educational facilities and space for a range of activities. In a bid to promote mutual well-being, understanding and respect between people and animals, Here For Cats plan to run activities with guests to the centre including a Book Buddies scheme, courses in animal first aid and communication, as well as talks and clinics by animal behaviourists.

As far as the rescue-centre itself goes, Here For Cats plan to create a space that meets the needs of every animal they take in. This will include rescue pens, feral chalets and safe havens, a nursery for mums and kittens, a hospital and isolation facility, a retirement village, enclosures, boarding facilities and much more. In addition, there are plans to include public facilities such as a charity shop, cafe and gardens.

These are certainly ambitious plans, and the team at Here For Cats know this only too well. However, these are plans that the people of Surrey are bound to get behind. The charity is run entirely by volunteers who self-fund much of what they do. With no support from government or council funding, the charity does rely upon the kindness and generosity of the public. Every penny currently donated goes directly to the animals but more help is needed if the Here For Cats big plan is to go ahead.

Here For Cats are now actively fundraising to secure an area of land on which to build their rescue centre. All donations are welcome, whether big or small. If you want to help Here For Cats realise this goal then please click here to donate. Alternatively you may wish to become a sponsor.

If you are unable to donate, then there are still a number of other ways you can help, whether it’s volunteering your time to help with fundraising, transporting cats or even providing a foster home. For more details, please click here to visit the Here For Cats website.

Here For Cats Surrey cat rescue charity

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Devasting fire at Surrey-based charity Challengers

The Guildford-based charity centre was significantly damaged after a fire broke out in the utility cupboard, and is now in need of urgent donations.

Local charity Challengers which offers care and activities for disabled youngsters has been forced to temporarily suspend all services after a devastating fire at their centre in Stoke Park, Guildford on Sunday 10th September. The charity, which is well known in the community for doing remarkable work, has praised the local fire service and the public for all their help and continued support.

The fire, which was caused by an out of use tumble drier in the utility room, damaged the downstairs play area but did not result in any injuries.

Six fire engines from across Surrey were called to the scene on Sunday afternoon where they worked for approximately 2 hours to extinguish the fire. The fire caused extensive damage to the downstairs play area.

Surrey Fire & Rescue Service Fire Investigation & Community Risk Reduction Team today tweeted a photo of the tumble dryer which has served as a stark warning to the public to turn off appliances when they are not in use.

This Tumble dryer was the cause of a fire in Guildford yesterday afternoon.It was not in use at the time! Switch them off when not in use.

Writing on their website, Challengers issued the following statement:

Following the fire on the play floor on Sunday the 10th September at our Guildford Centre we are working hard on how to get our play & pre-school services up and running as quickly as possible.

We have been overwhelmed by the kind words and offers of support from the community.

We are very proud of the team that managed this and are thankful to the Fire Service for their support.”

Although the charity is working to find a temporary solution to getting their services up and running as soon as possible, they also require urgent donations and are appealing to the public for assistance.

To help support Challengers please click here to visit their donation page.


Are you concerned about Food Waste?

Are you concerned about Food Waste? Do you want to know what you can do to help reduce it?

Earlier this year I watched an article on Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast about the setting up of a Community Fridge in Southend.  The idea is to divert food that would otherwise be binned by supermarkets, local businesses and allotments and to make it available to the public, for free, in a refrigerator, in a public place.  It turns out that I am not the only one with a passion for avoiding food wastage and so a team of us has liaised with local businesses to set up our own Community Fridge in Dorking.  To raise awareness and to launch the opening of the Fridge, we have put together the following event in conjunction with Transition Dorking:

On 16th September we will be hosting The Community Table, a pop-up community eating house (for one night only) in collaboration with Waitrose, and hosted in the Christian Centre, adjacent to St. Martin’s Church in Dorking.  The temporary installation will showcase a three course, vegetarian £15 set menu designed to combat food waste and to launch a new initiative called The Community Fridge.

The dishes on the menu at The Community Table will be crafted using food that would otherwise have been thrown away, along with ingredient donations from a select group of independent food suppliers who share our ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy.  September is the most fruitful season and our volunteer chefs vow to create a menu without compromise to taste and flavour whilst also ensuring that nothing will be wasted – from root to stalk.

Tickets are available here:

The evening will start at 7pm and is BYO (bring your own alcohol!)  There will be music, great company and a chance to see the Fridge in action.

The Fridge will be open for ‘business’ on the 5th and 7th September and then on weekdays from the 11th.  We would be delighted if you are able to share in our event and also welcome you to use the fridge!

The Fridge is a non-profit venture and we need volunteers.  Do you have time to volunteer running the fridge?   Contact us on Facebook: Dorking Community Fridge @dorkingcf

Together, we can reduce food waste!

Newlands Corner: commercialisation of the countryside

Newlands Corner is a natural area of outstanding beauty set in the Surrey Downs just off the A25, and owned by the Albury Estate. Thanks to an agreement between the landowners and Surrey County Council, the public have had access to this site since the 1970s. Maintained by Surrey Wildlife Trust on behalf of SCC this beauty spot is a very popular place to visit. It covers approximately 255 acres of open chalk downland and peaceful woodlands. The woodlands are made up of a mixture of deciduous trees like oak and birch and evergreen yew, some of which are hundreds of years old. Shady pathways meander through woods that shelter roe deer as well as being home to green woodpeckers, nuthatches and tawny owls.

I began visiting Newlands corner over thirty years ago when my four children were small. We spent hours walking the meandering trails, stopping to climb suitable trees on the way or playing hide and seek. At other times we picnicked out on the open hillside, taking in the amazing view. Thirty years on I am visiting Newlands Corner with my grandchildren who love it just as much as my children did. I also regularly visit Newlands Corner with my art group to attempt to paint the landscape spread out in the valley below.

I can’t emphasise enough just how wonderful Newlands Corner is. Unchanging, beautiful and a haven for wildlife. It’s not just me who feels this – an estimated 550,000 people visit Newlands Corner every year from all walks of life. With a good size car park, a burger stand with outside picnic tables, a small visitors centre, a little play area and toilets, it caters for every need.

Of course a place like Newlands Corner needs to be maintained and cared for, which is done by Surrey Wildlife Trust. Such maintenance covers activities such as litter picking, clearing paths, dog bins, tree safety and car park maintenance.

So what has changed?

Surrey County Council have decided that Newlands Corner needs upgrading so that the site is more accessible and attractive to people of all ages and abilities. This is a fair point, as everyone from babies in pushchairs to the disabled in wheelchairs should be able to enjoy Newlands Corner. They also plan to refurbish the toilets, another good point as the toilets are tired and run down. Plans also include more benches, again a worthwhile change.

So far so good.

Unfortunately, they also plan to impose parking charges, as detailed below.

Charging details:

  • A 20 minute period with no charge
  • £1 per hour to a maximum of £4 for 4 hours or more
  • An annual season ticket for regular visitors costing £40
  • No charge for Blue Badge holders when parking in the marked disabled bays

As this appears to have been passed, we will soon see parking meters installed on the site.

As well as charging to park SCC also plan to install:

  • 6 timber and rope play structures with metal fixing bolts. Each play structure is to be located in existing woodland clearings, adjacent to the existing Easy Access trail.
  • 8 brass rubbing and magnifying posts placed at different locations also on the Easy Access trail

Parking fees is part of a bigger plan to turn Newlands Corner into a ‘visitors attraction’ that will make money. In these days of austerity it seems ridiculous that SCC are prepared to use funds to install parking meters, when the money could be better used to fund the NHS or to keep libraries open. Will they make their money back from parking fees? Not necessarily. A lot of people who appreciate somewhere beautiful to visit that is free will stop visiting altogether. The whole point of Newlands Corner is that it is free. You can spend money if you want (I like nothing nicer than a cheese burger and chips for lunch) but the choice is yours. Charging to park could also possibly increase problems in the local area as visitors decide to park outside Newlands Corner and walk in.

Assuming that traffic does increase as a result of commercialising Newlands Corner, and people are prepared to pay the parking fees, the impact on the A25 could be horrendous. The entrance on the hill is already an accident waiting to happen and increased traffic will just add to the risk. Consequently more money will have to be spend on a road safety scheme to slow traffic past the entrance and exit to Newlands Corner. And while the changes will be funded separately by the Guildford Local Committee and not the SCC, it is still money that could be better used elsewhere.

I am also disappointed that SCC feel the need to install play structures of any kind at Newlands Corner. The whole point of Newlands Corner is that generations of children have learnt to enjoy the outdoors without the need of play structures. If visitors really need this kind of entertainment they can go to Alice Holt.

There is a lot of opposition to the commercialisation of Newlands Corner, a lot of which SCC have chosen to ignore. The Save Newlands Corner group have fought long and hard to save Newlands Corner, and continue to do so. Their site has in depth information on just what SCC has proposed and how they plan to expedite it. They need the support of us all.

Newlands Corner is not a money making venture, it is a place of tranquillity where nature can be seen at it’s best. We don’t want it turned into  a ‘visitor attraction’ that we can’t afford except on the odd occasion. We don’t want parking meters and pay-and-display signs marring the view. We don’t want or need artificial play structures along the trails. We just want Newlands Corner to be properly maintained and left exactly as it is.

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Sites to visit for the full picture from all sides.

Save Newlands Corner

Surrey County Council

Surrey Wildlife Trust

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What the deuce! Elmbridge residents call for fair play

There has been something of a hoo-ha brewing in Elmbridge recently. Residents have taken to social media to complain about changes to public services. Smelly bins left un-emptied, was the first issue galvanising the public into complaint. Particularly annoying as this occurred during the June heat wave. Residents took to twitter to berate local councillors.

Earlier this month, Amey, the Spanish owned refuse collectors started their new £100 million joint-waste contract in Elmbridge. Due to be rolled out later in Mole Valley, Surrey Heath and Woking, the residents were promised ‘an improved rubbish and recycling collection service.’ A major advantage of the switch was the proposed £2 million saving per annum and no doubt this would have been a factor in gaining the support of Surrey County Council as the waste disposal authority.

Unfortunately, a series of teething problems left food bins festering in the heat and whole cul-de-sacs abandoned due to the difficulty of negotiating the new vehicles between parked cars. Esher and Walton Conservatives were soon onto the scandal demanding that Elmbridge council ‘get a grip on the current appalling situation’ and laying the blame squarely upon the Lib Dem/Resident Association led council:

“Conservative group leader, Cllr Tim Oliver, is clear that the current service failings smacks of poor forward planning by Amey and a failure of the RA/LD Council to hold the contractor to account.”

But wait a minute, Surrey County Council, which is Tory led were in favour of the plan and at the time of the vote (December 2016) at least 21 of the 48 Councillors were Conservative. Cllr Tim Oliver in fact chaired the meeting with Amey and closed down some pretty relevant questions from other Councillors as you can see on this webcast.

A more recent hoo-ha has been caused by the lock-up of public tennis courts and the necessity for the public to pay a yearly subscription of £36 or a £5 one-off booking fee to play on courts which were previously free. This issue even got Judy Murray riled up as evidently this is Andy Murray’s home borough. £25,000 was pledged from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to help secure the sites and advertise the new charges. In good Surrey style there was soon a petition raised and a campaign organised to reverse the plan; a campaign apparently supported by Cllr Tim Oliver, Conservative group leader. Once again the accusing finger points firmly at the Lib Dem/Resident Association administration, totally ignoring the fact that the decision was passed unanimously by all 48 Elmbridge councillors, including Cllr Oliver.

tweet - ethical surrey - tennis

Note how Cllr Tim Oliver uses ‘they’ not ‘we’ in his campaign support letter;

“At a time when there has been huge disruption for many of us to the waste collection service over the past few weeks as a result of new contractors they appointed, I think conceding they were wrong to bring in charges would in some small way be a sign that they are actually listening.”

The next upset waiting in the wings is the proposed closure of recycling facilities across Surrey. In an effort to save another £2 million the council is proposing to close four recycling centres and to restrict access to the others to five days a week instead of seven. This will undoubtedly lead to bigger queues at those centres left open and restrictions for vans, trailers and pickups will encourage fly-tipping; a dreadful eye-sore in the leafy Surrey lanes and an expensive clear-up cost for the cash-strapped council.

Still at the ‘consultation’ stage this has yet to cause a major storm but the proposals have not been well received by the concerned citizens of Elmbridge.

So let’s start joining up the dots on these three unpopular changes to the delivery of public services. What they all have in common is the need to save money. Surrey County Council has seen cuts of £170 million from (Conservative) central funding since 2010 and with a further £100 million to save this year the cuts will continue to come until the money has been found.

This is the austerity agenda. The same agenda that 35,071 (43%) people voted for in June 2017 when they elected Dominic Raab to represent them. He has continually voted for cuts to local councils since 2010. Five more years of austerity was the Manifesto promise and heaped onto the seven previous years it will see virtually no group left untouched. Perhaps people thought it wouldn’t be their tennis courts closed or their bins left un-emptied. Perhaps the cuts would all fall elsewhere, after all there is no ‘magic money tree’ so it had to be done.

Unless you are the 26% who voted other than Conservative in 2017, then you are pretty much getting what you voted for. So that’s fair play then. Well, except of course some of the 35,071 won’t be experiencing the pain of the cuts, just the benefits of a low tax, low public service economy. They live in the gated estates in St. George’s Hill and Weybridge. They don’t worry about smelly bins; they pay someone else to do that. Neither do they queue at the recycling centre on a hot Sunday morning in a car packed to the rafters with rotting debris. They may have their own tennis court or at the very least membership of an exclusive club. Not to mention private health insurance and private education. The Conservative driven low tax economy puts money in their pocket with no down-side. These exclusive areas represent a solid voting block which will help to maintain Elmbridge as a safe Tory seat, but they can’t do it alone.

Perhaps things will change as the majority of us come to realise that for every £1 given back in tax breaks we have to find £10 to pay for the things which used to be free. Or go without or course, that’s what the poor people do. As the cuts continue to bite across Surrey Conservative voters may finally start to understand the socialist mantra – ‘for the many, not the few’.

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