Chilworth2gether started 2020 with big ambitions. Our plan was to revive the wonderful Chilworth Duck Race, an event that caught the public imagination, and brought young and old to the Gunpowder Mills to cheer on 500 coloured racing ducks, thrown off the bridge and raced down the River Tillingbourne to the finish line, with prizes for everyone who had chosen the winning colour.
With Covid curtailing events, Chilworth2gether changed tacks, and instead worked behind the scenes in partnership with St Martha Parish Council, to try to stop West Lodge being sold off by Guildford Borough Council. The Gunpowder Mills is Chilworth’s secret treasure, a historic and scheduled monument with a rich and colourful history. West Lodge is its gatehouse, at the entrance to the Mills on Blacksmith Lane. It’s been empty and unloved for many years.
The Parish Council, supported by Chilworth2gether wanted to keep the Lodge as part of the Gunpowder site and in GBC ownership. We realised that GBC had changed dramatically, with new Councillors elected, many bringing a different approach to representing the views of the village residents they represent. They didn’t know the Gunpowder story, so the Chilworth campaign started by our resident archaeological historian and surveyor, Andrew Norris, offering tours of the site to Councillors. Chilworth2gether got involved at the start, meeting and greeting the Councillors, and providing coffees at the Percy Arms prior to the tours of the site. (We’re in touch with GBC to check providing the coffees is consistent with their protocols.)
When the planning application finally was heard, Councillors at GBC unanimously voted to change the usage status of West Lodge, so it could be used for community and educational purposes. The plans include provision of dedicated off road parking to the rear of the Lodge, so residents’ concerns about parking on the road were addressed. Chilworth2gether has pledged a significant proportion of its funds towards the parking and the restoration, which will rely on Grant funding, for example from Heritage Lottery Fund. This is being applied for.
Chilworth2gether was delighted to be chosen to be the beneficiary of the Friday night Picnic and Pimm’s at Chilworth Manor in June 2020. Unfortunately, the event couldn’t happen last year, but the offer has been carried for to 2021. Instead, the family awarded us an interim grant, which has allowed us to support our Chilworth Brownie pack with discretionary funds that will help to keep the Brownies going through a very difficult period. If the Heritage Lottery Fund bid is successful, then Chilworth2gether will pledge the funds from Picnic and Pimm’s to the West Lodge project, as Chilworth’s community contribution.
At the end of the year, Kathy and Pete Wells, decided to move to the West Country. They were founder members of the Massive from which Chilworth2gether was born. It prompted a conversation about the future of Chilworth2gether, which has been raising funds and taking on big projects for the village for nine years. Those founder players decided it was time to retire. Chilworth2gether will remain while current commitments are on-going, but is looking for the next generation of folk to step forward and re-invent Chilworth2gether for the village. From the Millstones gifted by the Massive, Chilworth2gether has provided many amenities for the village, which certainly make Chilworth a good place to live, work and raise a family. It is hoped this is the first chapter of an evolving story in which fundraising is fun ,and getting together in the village is an enjoyable, sociable thing to do.
2020, despite Covid, ended with sparkling lights at both ends of the village, as Chilworth2gether again erected the fabulous Christmas trees, gifted to Chilworth by our generous local benefactor. It is hoped we can carry on this tradition, whether Chilworth2gether remains or finishes, once its commitments are fulfilled.