Dorset has no cities or motorways. I don’t know whether it’s because of this, but there is a great sense of community within the county.
This can manifest in a myriad of ways - from caring individuals ensuring that others who may not have easy access to transport are helped with their shopping, right through to an organisation such as Dorset Community Foundation which can provide practical support with grants to help with heating or education.
All those lovely, and sometimes remote, villages and hamlets need residents that care about where they live in order to survive and thrive. I come across people like this when I attend the Village of the Year awards, where Dorset Magazine sponsors Hamlet of the Year. Established over 30 years ago by Dorset Community Action - another wonderful organisation helping rural Dorset - I hear about communities that have created something special.
These have included the creation of a Micro Museum in an old phone box in Stour Provost, village pubs turned into community assets such as The Drovers Inn at Gussage All Saints and village shops which have become buzzing community hubs - like Ducks Farm Shop and Café at Portesham.
One particular project at this year’s awards really impressed me. It was in Okeford Fitzpaine and was spearheaded by Jeremy and Dilys Gartside who had moved to the village only a few years ago. They were both keen cyclists and came across a track, just under a mile long, known as Mill Lane that would link them to Shillingstone including the local doctor’s surgery. It had fallen into disrepair, and needed a huge amount of work so that it could be used by everyone. Named the Little Lane Project, the local community came together and applied for grants that could help finance the project. A couple of years down the line, with a lot of hard work, endless form filling and meetings, they have a track that is used by young and old in both Okeford Fitzpaine and Shillingstone.
Sometimes even the most willing of community spirits can be stopped in their tracks. The failed 4am raid of a cashpoint on Fleet Street in Beaminster, back in August, has had a massive impact on the residents of this lovely village outside Bridport. The raiders used a stolen digger to pull the cashpoint from the wall of a listed building. The building partially collapsed and the gang fled. Beaminster now has no cashpoint available out of hours, plus the disruption to the square has impacted on local businesses.
Community spirit can make or break a village, without that passion to support local – be it the people, the businesses or the facilities - it may well struggle. Having a community that will go that extra mile to support it can make a world of difference.
‘Community spirit can make or break a village’
Editor, Dorset Magazine 07584311487, email@example.comYou can follow Helen on Twitter@dorsetmag