Hertfordshire's Groundwork is helping communities grow
PUBLISHED: 13:28 12 October 2010 | UPDATED: 15:40 20 February 2013
When it comes to keeping our county green and pleasant, the many volunteers at this vital Hertfordshire charity really play their part...
Groundwork Hertfordshire is an environmental charity which works alongside the whole community to transform places and lives. It does this by working with local authorities, community groups, businesses, schools and voluntary groups, to find out what the local problems are and to implement practical solutions.
Groundwork's vision is of a society of sustainable communities which are vibrant, healthy and safe, which respect the local and global environment and where individuals and enterprise prosper.
Based on the outskirts of Hatfield (just off the A414 towards Hertford), Groundwork Hertfordshire has grown steadily to become the leading environmental regeneration charity in the East of England and a prominent member of the National Groundwork Federation. Approximately 150 projects are delivered each year across the whole county, ranging from small garden projects to large estate renovation.
How did Groundwork begin?
Groundwork's origins can be traced back to the late 1970s. The Countryside Commission was looking at ways to improve the physical environment of the urban fringe - the 'no man's land' on the edge of towns and cities which tended to be overlooked and often became run-down and derelict. In 1978 the Commission put forward proposals to the Government for a major experiment to look at new ways of improving and managing these 'in between' areas. Environment minister, Michael Heseltine, presided over the launch of the first Groundwork Trust in St Helens and Knowsley in December 1981.
Founded in 1985, Groundwork Hertfordshire was the seventh Groundwork Trust to be established and the first in the south of England. The Trust's role was to bring together a partnership of public, private and voluntary sector interests in a co-ordinated effort to upgrade the environment, to realise the full potential of under-used land, to convert waste ground to productive use and to improve access to the countryside.
One of Groundwork Hertfordshire's latest initiatives is the Green Team - a 16-week voluntary training scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds not in education, employment or training. Recruits have the opportunity to gain skills and experience in a wide range of landscaping activities such as tree planting, garden maintenance, patio laying, environmental conservation, planting and fencing.
The work is varied and provides the young people with experience of different tasks in different settings. In addition to working on real projects, the teams are encouraged to learn more about the environmental sector and to complete a City & Guilds qualification in Land Based Studies.
Work completed by the first two very successful teams has included projects with the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust on their nature reserves, many school ground improvement projects and at Mitsubishi Electric Europe in Hatfield where a team constructed a path through a wild flower meadow and planted an orchard in the company's grounds.
The programme has encouraged more than two thirds of the participants into paid employment or further training - a fantastic endorsement of the scheme.