Split between the two civic parishes of Shalford and St Martha, Chilworth struggled with its identity until 2013 when Chilworth2gether quite literally brought the two ends of the linear Tillingbourne village together. Now with key founders retiring, it needs new people to take a lead.
Maggie Scott takes up the story:
“Every village has a few energetic individuals who make things happen. This is the story of an era in Chilworth that put it on the map and brought people together. It started with the Jubilee, when just four couples, in just one year, raised funds to commission the Millstone sculptures at the boundaries of the village. One fund-raising event every month, for 12 months. A great success.
“Kathy Wells, though, wasn’t satisfied with that. A local girl who had lived in the village for over 30 years, she had many local contacts and the gift of inspiring others. With the support of her friends and the mentorship of a neighbour, Chilworth2gether was created. This time, it wasn’t about funding, but fun. It was based on projects that would bring residents together, breaking down barriers and creating community spirit, whilst making the village a better place to live, work, and bring up the next generation.
“It didn’t have a committee structure, but encouraged people to get involved with specific projects as they arose. Ideas were generated by holding public meetings, and asking for ideas. Kathy sounded out her contacts – how can we get people together? It was organic and free-form – perhaps the secret of its success. A solid core of people built up. Backroom functions, the accounts and website were taken care of behind the scenes.
“Some were celebrations – a Fete, a Dog Show and a Tug of War. Others were about fundamentals – installing three defibrillators throughout the village, and working with the local rapid response officer to provide training and maintenance.
Most of the Chilworth2gether projects involved food and drink, with Pete Wells the undisputed Barbeque King. A Chilworth2gether BBQ trundled round the village, supporting the open air events. The burgers became both a way to thank participants, and as a way to raise revenue to cover expenses. For Kathy and Pete, it was a badge of honour that all catering should be good value and affordable. A community, the team agreed, is built on affordable refreshments.
“Chilworth Gunpowder Mills is one place the BBQ visited regularly. To encourage families to visit, and walkers to linger and enjoy the atmospheric surroundings of the woods and ancient gunpowder structures, Chilworth2gether worked with GBC Countryside wardens and the Parish Council. A well-used picnic area has been created with benches donated by Chilworth2gether. With the lure of cake from the wardens, and the odd BBQ provided by Pete and the team, working parties help clear vegetation around the ruins, pull out invasive Himalayan Balsam, and have even created a new footpath.
“As the teams grew in confidence, so events got bigger, and projects more ambitious. Some projects were not pulled off, but still improved things in the village. Chilworth2gether even challenged the constitution, trying to achieve a boundary change, so that Chilworth could have one set of Parish Councillors rather than two. Kathy and her team learnt that a significant field in the village was for sale, and mobilised the village to try to buy the site, save it from development and turn it in to a public space. Ultimately bought by the village school, it remains a natural green site, with iconic views to St Martha’s church retained.
“The Chilworth Duck Race remains their outstanding achievement of Chilworth2gether, attracting in latter years up to a thousand participants, and funding many major projects. Chilworth2gether has also been nominated by generous local benefactors the beneficiary of two Picnic and Pimm’s events, which has enabled the team to install a splendid media system in the village hall. This in turn has inspired another of the original couples to start up a Community Cinema.
“With Kathy and Pete Wells moving to the West Country, the other three founder couples, Diane and Bruce Kenny, Anne and Julian Denmark and Anita and Martin Smithers, have also decided to retire. If anyone is inspired either to create a Chilworth2gether second generation, or is motivated to start up something similar elsewhere, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org The website is www.Chilworth2gether.org.uk”
Freelance Press Officer/Journalist/Editor
01483 203237 07884 268594