20th Anniversary Somerset Stories: West Pennard Gardening Club

West Pennard Gardening Club brings the community of West Pennard and neighbouring villages together once a month. Members enjoy guest speakers in the village hall, alongside two coach trips, and a meal at the local pub each Christmas.

We spoke to treasurer and committee member Iris Goodby, who told us how a £500 grant from The Somerset Fund helped the committee members breathe new life into the club, following the fallow years of Covid.

“We’ve always been a very active village, with a few different clubs meeting regularly in the village hall; mostly older, retired people, with a few younger people taking part in things here and there. But since Covid people stopped going out – and they got into of the habit of not going out. Since the pandemic two other village clubs have folded.

A group of people stand in front of a coach at Bowood House

West Pennard Gardening Club went on a coach trip to Bowood House in May 2023, thanks to a grant from The Somerset Fund.

The Gardening Club had a bit of a reset and we now have a new Chair and committee. It’s changed the dynamic of the club. Younger people from the village now come along, and it’s really breathed new life into the club.

We meet once a month and guest speakers bring along exhibits, with a plant sale and refreshments. We recently had a guest speaker from The Newt, he was just fabulous. We had over 70 people come along to that, which helped us a lot, financially. We go on two coach trips a year and get together for a meal in a local pub at Christmas. We’ve been to some lovely places, usually gardens and National Trust places for a wander and a cream tea. We keep it relatively local. We’ve been to Hestercombe near Taunton, and our Somerset Fund grant has meant we’re able to visit Bowood House just over the border in Wiltshire this year.

The grant has been fantastic, it’s enabled us to go out together again.  We just wouldn’t be able to do these coach trips without your funding, these days; the cost of the coach is hundreds of pounds – it’s almost doubled since the cost-of-living crisis. We used to ask members to contribute, and we’d be able to cover the cost between us. But we just can’t expect people to find that sort of money anymore. Once you’ve paid for a bit of lunch, and the entry fee…we don’t want it to be something that’s not within people’s means. The idea has always been to put on an affordable day trip for people.

We want to bring people together. There’s a much broader mix of ages and people come from neighbouring villages and parishes as well, now. It’s about companionship, but we all have one thing in common; we all love plants and gardening.

Since our new Chair, we’ve doubled the membership. We took the opportunity to take a fresh look at the format, and it’s blossomed. I can’t imagine the club will ever close. We’ve got a really strong committee that will keep it going, now and in the future. We’re evolving and moving with the times. We listen to the villagers and ask them what they want.

There was a woman who was recently widowed, and had become quite lonely and isolated before she joined the club. She met lots of people from the village she hadn’t known before and now she has a very active social circle. We found out a bit later that she used to run a nursery and has a huge amount of knowledge around plants!

This grant has saved the club in way; we’re so grateful. It’s meant we can go out again together for the first time in years.”

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