(Katie Mabbutt, Cllr Lisa Blakemore, Thames Water’s Rosemary Waugh and Rob Gray from Friends of River Crane)
A community orchard and a new green gym have officially launched thanks to a £20,000 donation from Thames Water.
The company donated the money to benefit communities in the London borough of Richmond after residents lost water supply on Christmas Day in 2016, after the pumps at Hampton water works suffered an unplanned shut down.
Since then, the firm has completed a full investigation and taken immediate steps to prevent a repeat, including working with independent specialist companies and making changes to the control systems and alarm settings, as well as preparing contingency supply plans in case of emergencies.
Bosses at the company also agreed to donate £20,000 each to two local charities, Friends of the River Crane (FORCE) and Friends of Richmond Park to benefit the local communities.
Following the donation, FORCE has partnered with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to breathe new life into two public spaces, Meadway Orchard and Mereway Nature Park.
The renovation at the orchard will be carried out by TCV, which has launched a Green Gym – a community-based gym which sees members exercise while carrying out essential maintenance such as gardening and cleaning.
Rosemary Waugh, corporate responsibility manager at Thames Water, said: “When we found out people had been cut off from water on Christmas Day our hearts sank.
“We’re sorry to all residents who suffered, and we’ve taken steps to prevent a repeat in the future.
“We decided to donate money to two community groups in recognition of this, and we’re delighted FORCE has used the money to resurrect this excellent orchard.
“It was key for us the money would be spent wisely and benefit the local community and we hope it’s used for many years to come.”
Before members of the gym started work on the orchard, it had become a derelict dumping ground, fenced off from the public and allowed to grow out of control.
Rob Gray, chairman of FORCE, said: “We’re delighted to be able to help set up this Green Gym with the support of Thames Water and look forward to seeing cumulative and sustainable benefits to the spaces themselves and the local people who engage with them.”
Now it has been cleared and opened up to the public a new path has been created and a dozen fruit trees have been planted, with its fruits able to be picked by members of the public.
A ceremonial tree planting was organised to officially launch the orchard, which will now be managed by the TCV. The volunteers will also maintain the Mereway nature park.
Craig Lister, Green Gym managing director at TCV, said: "We’re thrilled to be launching a Green Gym in Richmond.
“Participants have told us how they feel more useful and develop an optimistic view of their future, while improving their mental and physical health.
Cllr Lisa Blakemore, Mayor of Richmond, thanked Thames Water for the donation and added: “This project is an example of where a partnership is working well to deliver improvements for the benefit of the local open spaces and local residents.”
(Below, the Green Gym volunteers around the new tree)