Ways to get involved and help make life better locally

By Cllr Belinda Bawden
Lyme Regis Town Council and Once Planet Working Group

AS the COVID crisis is continuing to create uncertainty in aspects of all our lives, and with Brexit and the climate and ecological crisis looming, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

It seems as good a time as any to reflect on whether any individual can ever make any difference. I was so concerned about the growing divisions in society and, in particular, as a geographer, about the lack of political will to take the threat of climate chaos and biodiversity loss seriously, that I stood for election to Lyme Regis town council last year.

After nearly a year and a half on the town council, it feels very like working in education (and no doubt in health, care, the emergency services and many other public and charitable services or running your own business) in that there is always more to do than there are hours in the day, you will very rarely get thanked and there is no shortage of those who do not understand how much is involved but who see fit to complain and criticise.

Democracy can be hard work! Working to make life better for others is an honour and a privilege and when communities do come together, it is humbling and inspiring.

The start of the COVID crisis saw the spontaneous generosity of the people of Lyme Regis create the Community Support Group, enabling volunteers to look after people on every street in town. This work continues to bring people together – contact Cheryl Reynolds on 01297 443814 or cherylreynolds1947@gmail.com for details.

Lockdown gave the newly-formed Lyme Garden Growers group the time to nurture a giving and sharing ethos, which has helped many people enjoy the simple pleasures of growing their own fruit and vegetables and sharing them with others.

Many of the town’s businesses adapted their operations to offer ready-made home meals and home deliveries, while enabling generous support for the foodbank and for children on free school meals.

Their service continues to adapt and develop to support people when it is needed and co-ordinate generous offers of help from the community – contact Lisa and Mary at LymeForward for information about the foodbank and Zero Waste initiatives on 01297 441224 or 07955 772314 or manager@lymeforward.com.

Volunteers, community groups, supportive local businesses and well-managed, responsive public services create resilient communities which should be better able to respond to future challenges. We are so blessed in Lyme Regis and Uplyme that there are many ways to get involved and to support each other.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead

Totally Locally, for example, started out as a small idea in the north of England and has grown into a multi-award-winning worldwide movement. Lyme is now part of a network of Totally Locally towns across the world, sharing ideas, working together and supporting local independent businesses, adding a new vibrancy and spirit of co-operation.

Lyme had its first Fiver Fest in February, and this October was one of 130 towns in the UK taking part. More than 40 businesses offered bargains for £5 on a wide range of food, drink, gifts and treats.

By contrast, Lyme is only one of three towns chosen to take part in the Royal College of Art’s community engagement and sustainable transport planning research study, ‘Our Future Towns’.

There is still time to share your hopes and visions for the future of Lyme and to be listened to about the challenges we face. We’d particularly like to hear from younger people and from anyone with different mobility experiences so please tell your friends and family to share their views – contact Belinda Bawden on 01297 443739 or belindabawden@gmail.com or Cheryl Reynolds on 01297 443814 or cherylreynolds1947@gmail.com for any information needed or support doing the surveys.

The Fossil Festival recently ran its first virtual event, with many of the universities, museums and associations we normally see in person instead hosting hands-on science activities and presentations online.

Lyme Regis Development Trust, Lyme Regis Museum and the Natural History Museum had the vision back in 2005 to celebrate Lyme’s role as the ‘birthplace of palaeontology’ and a central ‘gateway town’ in the World Heritage Site, by launching an event which brought together experts in earth science, natural history and geology, including the local fossil collectors, as well as artists and interpreters, to share their enthusiasm, knowledge and skills with schools and families.

The annual event attracts thousands of visitors and the artists, academics and professionals return year after year, eager to learn from each other.

Transferring the festival to an online format must have been a huge challenge but many fascinating talks and activities took place and are available on the website to watch again.

Among these are Jim Thomas’ excellent film of the history, geography and geology behind Lyme’s changing seafront; Richard Edmonds’ fascinating study of the famous Bindon Landslide and the team behind Jurassic Airlines, which won the Olympic ‘Inspire’ award in 2012, presenting their plans to develop an online version of the entertaining flight through time along the Jurassic Coast to show how past extinctions have enabled evolution and explosions in biodiversity. Their question is, are we heading towards our own extinction?

‘Departures’ explores the risks of climate change and biodiversity loss while showing the solutions we need to avoid the worst are already in our hands. Crowdfunding, investment, expertise and support are needed for this exciting project to ‘take-off’, so please contact the team if you’d like to be involved in this Lyme-born venture on hello@jurassicairways.com.

You can also contact me by emailing belindabawden@gmail.com if you’d like to get involved in a trial for a car-sharing club or work on transport or energy projects. Turn Lyme Green and Plastic Free Lyme also have various environmental and community projects and working groups you can join.

Living in Lyme and Uplyme offers ample opportunities to be involved, find support and learn from each other. Facing the future challenges of pandemics, economic and political uncertainty and climate and environmental change will be easier with collaboration and support. Together we are stronger.

Woodmead Halls
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