As we approach the anniversary of the establishment of our charity, it seems a good time to pause and look back at what has been achieved. The initial fund-raising event in June 2012 was a four-day exhibition of George’s photographs together with sales of plants, cards, pictures and refreshments, all of which raised the wonderful amount of £3000. Since then, sales of cards and pictures have provided a steady income, boosted by plant sales, participation in events such as the Sarsen Trail and general donations.
So what have the Trustees of the Charity done with the generous amounts raised?
Our first grant was made in July 2013, following which there have been a steady flow of applications and we are pleased to list below our achievements to date.
- The children of Newton Tony Primary School enjoyed extra music tuition as well as being able to participate in the Small Schools Music Festival. In addition, our grant enabled the school to become involved in the Pippin Project, a visual arts and music project. A school orchard has been planted, which can also be enjoyed by the local community, and the pupils participated in creative artistic workshops as well as a day workshop with a musician, culminating in a performance of ‘The Fruit of Paradise’. In 2014 a further grant was used by the school towards the purchase of cameras for use by the children. In the spring of 2015 we were able to fund the renovation of their school nature pond, which will develop the area for nature studies and also as a quiet outdoor seating area for the children.
- St. Nicholas’ Primary School, Idmiston, have utilised the grant made to them to enhance pupils’ awareness of ecological issues by visiting Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve on four occasions during the year when they were able to see how the wildlife copes with the seasons and how the environment changes with time. The funding included purchase of a camera to record the visits as well as the purchase of data logging software to record temperature, light and sound levels. 2014 saw a further grant made to the school to construct a spiritual garden in the school grounds. The garden will be planned in such a way to provide a quiet secure area for reflection and prayer. The garden will contain scented plants, seating areas for the children, stepping stones and a water feature.
- Winterbourne Earls Primary School was granted funding in 2013 to develop a Quiet Area already set aside near to the main playground. The pupils wish to establish a sensory and wildflower garden within this area. The ground has been prepared and planting took place in Spring and Summer 2014.
- The Trustees have not limited the grant making to schools. In October 2013, Salisbury Art Trail included a project entitled ‘Thankfulness,’ an art work that was installed in St. Nicholas’ Church, Porton for three weeks, encompassing the Art Trail as well as the Harvest Festival season. During this time participants were encouraged to contribute drawings of their reflections, to be included in the main sculptural installation, as well as attending workshops, a talk and enjoying quiet time throughout the exhibition.
- Following funding from the charity, the Hudson Road Friendship Club were able to arrange a Spring/Summer outing for their members, aged between 70 and 100+, some with limited mobility, to Heale House gardens. Many lead a restricted life, mostly in urban surroundings, and this funding gave them the opportunity to experience the beauty of a garden in bloom. In the spring 2015 we provided further funding for a trip to Plaitford to the Lavender Farm which is due to take place later in the year. A third application was received in the summer 2017 and the Friendship Club used the funding to hire a mini bus for a couple of days, a visit was made to see the badges at Fovant and the day was rounded off with a very enjoyable pub lunch.
- Two of George’s framed photographs were given to the Porton under 14s Football Team to auction in order to raise funds to enable 15 members of the team to participate in a football tour of Holland, an opportunity they would otherwise have been unable to afford.
- February 2014 brought in two more applications. Pupils at St. Mark’s Junior School in Salisbury are transforming a disused part of the school grounds into a working allotment and funding from the charity has assisted by providing design and digging instruction to the children involved, as well as planting during the Autumn and Spring.
- The pupils of North Hill House School in Frome have benefitted from the purchase of a tool centre, a 275 piece tool chest, a folding bike workstand and a bike pump with gauge. This encourages pupils to develop practical, hands on skills whilst enhancing vocational studies.
- In the summer of 2014, we supported Pitton School to take part in a project organised by Salisbury Playhouse called “Beginners, Please!”. This will enable a class of children to visit the Playhouse for a backstage tour, to see a performance and to participate in drama workshops lead by specialist teachers. The children will then work with their teacher to write and produce their own play – culminating with a performance in the Salberg studio theatre. Each class will also take part in poetry workshops which will be led by a highly regarded children’s poet. This project was so enjoyable, and it was felt to be so beneficial for the children taking part, that Pitton School took part in a similar project with Salisbury Playhouse again in 2016 and 2018.
- Exeter House School supports children with a wide range of needs, and the school was very keen to provide the children with a permanent outdoor learning space. In 2014 we were very pleased to have been able to help the school complete their Storytelling Circle, which includes a fire pit, and the Grow Zone which includes raised beds and two sets of children’s ergonomic gardening tools.
- George studied horticulture at Sparsholt College, and in 2014 we were very pleased to be able to support the purchase of a Dosatron – a mobile fertiliser unit. The horticulture students will use this piece of equipment as part of their studies when growing on plants, some of which will be used for shows such as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We have also covered the costs for some of the student’s tests in hedge trimming and the use of spaying equipment, for five consecutive years from 2015 to 2020.
- In the summer of 2015 Winterslow School received a contribution towards a grant to renovate their playground, including introducing some outdoor musical instruments. Part of the plan during renovation is also to add raised beds in order to allow space for horticulturally based projects. In the summer of 2020 we were very pleased to provide a second grant to Winterslow School for various projects: the provision of wildlife supporting plants to add their nature garden, the purchase of fruiting trees to help develop the children’s understanding of food production and the purchase of musical instruments and art resources to encourage their pupil’s creativity.’
- In 2016 we were very pleased to be able to help fund Andover Trees United (ATU). ATU are a community partnership of twenty-five schools, youth groups, volunteers and businesses working in partnership with specialist environmental organisations. They are based just north of Andover and their aim is to involve as many young people as possible in planting 10,000 trees in and around Andover over a ten-year time span. The project reached its half way point in 2016, and to mark this milestone ATU decided to plant a landmark tree and it was felt that it would be appropriate to choose a tree which ‘Capability’ Brown would have used, as 2016 also marks the tercentenary of his birth. The project was called ‘Capability Brown and the Birthday Tree’. In support of this project Focus in on Life were pleased to be able to fund the following activities. ATU wanted to leave the choice of the landmark tree to the school children. To enable the children to make an informed decision, trips were arranged to Highclere Castle and Longstock Water Gardens so that the children could have guided tours and see specimens of potential trees. The schools then chose the tree they would be voting for and the children made presentations of the reasons for their choice. Poetry and photography workshops were arranged so that the children could explore their decisions from many angles. A poem was chosen which has been engraved onto a wooden plaque which will be placed with the landmark tree. A photography competition was held and prizes awarded on the day of the tree planting which was marked with a ‘Tree Party’. Well over 1000 children took part in Capability Brown and the Birthday Tree and it was a marvellous way for the work and involvement of so many people of all ages to be acknowledged. The tree chosen as the landmark tree was a Holm Oak, also known as an Evergreen Oak.
- January 2017 saw an application form from Pembroke Park School. The school wished to improve the access to their outdoor learning area and we were very pleased to be able to help them purchase enough bark chippings to achieve this. The school were also hoping to eventually purchase a polytunnel complete with staging and once again we were happy to fund the purchase of this invaluable piece of equipment which will help to encourage the children to develop an interest in horticulture. We hope that this will help the school achieve their goal of being awarded Green Flag Status.
- In the summer of 2017 we received an application from a horticulture student at Sparsholt College requesting help so that she could attend a study trip to Holland. We were very pleased to help; the trip was a wonderful experience and proved very helpful to future studies. Please see a report of the trip in the ‘News’ section of the website.
- In the spring of 2018 we started our second collaborative project, this time with the charity, Butterfly Conservation. Focus in on Life gave away butterfly kits to ten schools in Wiltshire and Hampshire. The schools will be able to watch painted lady caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies in the habitat provided as part of the kit, before setting them free in their playgrounds. It is the second part of this project which involves Butterfly Conservation, a member of the charity will come to each school and talk to the children about the conservation of butterflies, moths and their environment. Focus in on Life has made a donation to Butterfly Conservation in thanks for their help with this project. As the butterfly project proved so successful, enjoyable and beneficial we decided to run the project again with the help of Butterfly Conservation in 2019.
- For several years an artist local to Woking has been running art-based drop in sessions to promote and support mental health and mental health issues. Some of these sessions are out reach projects for the mental health charity, Mind. These workshops are carried out on a purely voluntary basis by the artist, who also funds the purchase of the materials needed for a lot of the sessions, Focus in on Life are very pleased that during the summer of 2018 we were able to provide the artist with some funding for the purchase of art materials.
- In the summer of 2019, we were very pleased to be able to fund two Salisbury schools, Exeter House and St Osmunds, in a project called ‘Beginners Please!’, run by Salisbury Playhouse. The children will participate in workshops led by specialist teachers, they will write, rehearse and finally perform their play in the Salberg Theatre, watched by their teachers, parents and children from other schools. The children are also given a backstage tour so that they can learn about theatre life.
- In the spring of 2019 Broad Chalke School was very keen to renovate their school garden, including refurbishing the raised beds, planters and fencing. The school garden is used by the children and a weekly lunchtime gardening club is well attended. We were very pleased to provide a grant to help towards the renovation work and ensure that this area remains available for the children to develop horticultural skills.
- CAMEO (Come and meet each other), a friendship group based in Woking at St Mary of Bethany Church, is run in support of elderly people, giving them an opportunity to meet and spend time with other. In the summer of 2019 the group were hoping to have a day out and we were very pleased to fund a boat trip from Runnymede to Windsor during which everyone enjoyed a lunch which was served on the boat.
- Wylye Valley Primary School has as part their school grounds a wonderful wild area edging a small stream, the area is full of mature trees and scrub, interspersed with some narrow grass paths and glades. The school currently enjoys using this area as a forest school, but they were keen to explore ways to enhance its usefulness as a wildlife habitat and so, in the autumn of 2019, we were very pleased to provide the school with a range of bird and bat boxes and to fund a visit from the RSPB who spoke to the school about the importance of conservation, provided advice on the positioning of the boxes, and suggested plenty of ideas on enhancing the area further.
- Early in 2020, Focus in on Life was very pleased to be able to make a donation to one of the local food banks, and as we neared the end of the year we donated three hundred and fifty Christmas cards to be made freely available either in food boxes or for selection in one of the food banks.