Sian Baker Maurice, WCVA’s Volunteering Grant Scheme Development Manager, recently made her way from Barry to Llanidloes to experience the Pumpkin Festival organised by The Wilderness Trust and supported by 50 volunteers.
The last 18 months has exemplified the importance of volunteers to communities. To keep the great work going and provide a better experience for each volunteer, WCVA administered the Volunteering Wales Grant Scheme 2021/22 funded by Welsh Government.
With projects now well underway I went to see Volunteering Wales Grant recipients, The Wilderness Trust and their volunteer-led Pumpkin Festival.
Making my way up to Llanidloes I looked up at the grey clouds and kept my fingers crossed that the weather stayed dry. As I parked, the clouds were still behaving and my little troupe (one husband, two children and one pug) made our way to the closed off high street, already bustling with people.
Flanking the road were many different stalls offering wicker baskets, street food, children’s games, and of course pumpkins, all to the soundtrack of local musicians playing in the performance tent. I enjoyed a delicious goat curry whilst the children had sausage rolls from the local butchers.
As I navigated the crowd, entirely at the will of a surprisingly strong pug, the children played hook a pumpkin and had their faces painted. My children now replaced with a rainbow unicorn and Van Gogh’s sunflowers we started the scavenger hunt.
The scavenger hunt took us around the whole festival. During this we got to speak to many different volunteers (who turns out also struggled to find the St Idloes Church). Each person beaming with pride about how the day was going and looking forward to the evening parade and street performances.
THE HANGING GARDENS PROJECT
The scavenger hunt ended at The Hanging Gardens project. The Bethel Street building, in need of significant repair, has been taken on by The Wilderness Trust and is in the process of being revitalised into a community hub. Long wooden tables encouraged those inside to eat, talk and laugh together. On the far side was a Puppet workshop, which the rainbow unicorn and Sunflowers immediately dived into.
I handed over the now flagging pug to the husband and got to spend a few minutes catching up with Luc and Fran from The Wilderness Trust.
Talking to Luc and Fran it was clear how much work they had put into the day, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the overwhelming response from the community that led to 50+ volunteers offering to help.
We talked about the upcoming plans for the Hanging Gardens Project, there is more building work and maintenance to be done, but groups are already enquiring about using the facilities.
Luc also introduced me to their newest member of the team, who was recruited through the Kickstart Scheme. I was jealous that their first day was working at a pumpkin festival, but with The Wilderness Trust this would be just the start of the engaging and varied activities the Kickstarter will be able to work on.
TIME FOR BED!
Leaving Fran and Luc to prepare for the evening entertainment, me and the family had to start on our return trip home. We had barely got onto the A470 when I realised I was the only one still awake, everyone else worn out by all the activities and excitement, definitely the sign of a great day.
VOLUNTEERING WALES GRANTS
Find out more about the scheme by visiting the Volunteering Wales grants page.