I travelled to the furthest south west corner of Hertfordshire to spend a lovely day in Three Rivers with Chair Paula Hiscocks.
We started by meeting Interim Chief Executive David Hill and Head of Community Partnerships Andy Stovold. Andy gave a presentation on how Three Rivers works in partnership to prevent crime and help the vulnerable. He was frank about the county wide problems of gangs and county lines, exploitation, domestic abuse, hate crime and anti-social behaviour and reported on the excellent partnership work being done in Three Rivers through the S W Herts Youth Action Panel, Anti-social Behaviour Action Group and Community Safety Partnership to proactively tackle these problems.
We set off first to visit the Mill End Community Centre, a key focal point and resource and information centre for the local community. Staff and volunteers explained how 25 different groups use the space each week, which is well served by local transport and easily accessible at the heart of the community. They have exciting plans to develop the space further and create a garden too.
One of the groups that use the Centre is the Royal Voluntary Service who run a lunch club every weekday, providing a hot 2 course meal and an opportunity for people to come together and socialise. Many elderly attendees said how important it was to come out and see friends, and some are assisted with transport too. We had a delicious home-made lunch, entirely cooked and served by wonderful volunteers.
There is also a pay-what-you-can café run by the Mill End Community Trust in the Methodist Church, where volunteers from local churches also run a photography group, men’s workshop restoring bicycles and a food bank too. At Christmas time they produce hampers for local families and those in need, and the different church groups work together to ensure that whatever is needed is somehow provided.
Colne Valley Special Sailors is entirely run by volunteers who enable 505 disabled sailors to enjoy sailing. In fact, they provide 10% of the sail-ability provision in the whole country, and do this from a small tent and 2 pontoons at Bury Lake. They operate May to October, 4 days a week, using specially adapted boats and equipment so that sailing can be safely accessible to those with disabilities of different sorts. Great fun is had by all, and they are hoping to improve their facilities. Off with the hat and on with the wellies for this visit to meet some of the trustees!
At the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust we went back in time as we learnt about the families that lived on barges on the canals, and looked at the tiny living space in the beautifully restored ‘Roger’, one of the last 20 wooden narrow boats in working order. The canal centre at Batchworth houses a shop and on the other side of the lock the new Education centre welcomes school parties and others from the community. Again, volunteers are key to the work of this heritage education charity.
Our last visit was to the Three Rivers Museum at Basing House, once the home of William Penn who gave his name to the state he governed in America, Pennsylvania. Local history is kept alive by volunteers who regularly change the displays and look after and catalogue the contents.