William Blake wrote about “England’s green and pleasant land” in a poem that became the hymn Jerusalem. He wrote the verse while living in the Sussex countryside and his love of nature echoes through his words.
The South Hams in Devon can easily be described as a “green and pleasant land” with woodland, moorland, countryside and coast all within easy reach. And the people of this beautiful area are determined to keep it that way.
In the villages and towns they start spreading the word early when residents are very young. Pre-schools and primaries often have outdoor classrooms and forest schools, many have their own vegetable plots, gardens and orchards and some even have beach schools.
Community compost schemes are on the rise, with many of them selling the resulting compost to raise funds which will improve the area, and elsewhere volunteers regularly get together to clean beaches of rubbish or keep streets tidy.
There are any number of initiatives and projects that protect and enhance the area. In Modbury they decided to go plastic free in 2007. More than 40 shops and businesses signed up to scrap plastic carrier bags. It was such a success that they still do it today. In South Brent they have a community fridge where people can contribute food that would otherwise go to waste – maybe a overspill from the allotment or food that would go in the bin when you head off on holiday. In Brixton volunteers regularly meet to pick litter and keep public phone boxes and bus shelters clean.
Everywhere you look people are being encouraged to walk and cycle and use public transport when possible. Defunct railway routes have been repurposed in some areas to provide safe, level paths for bikes and if you’re not sure if cycling is for you, borrow one from the South Brent Bike Bank.
Sustainable South Hams is a Community Interest Company with a lot of ideas – creating community orchards, rewilding, reducing our carbon footprint and encouraging wildlife on the land and in and around the water.
Enthusiasts are helping to care for the birds and the bees and you will see lots of green spaces and wildflower meadows.
The possibilities are endless and many are forward-thinking – community energy schemes, more ways of reducing, reusing and recycling to keep countryside, moorland, towns and villages clean and attractive. A “green and pleasant land” indeed.
For inspiration head for…
Sustainable South Brent – ssb.org.uk
Sustainable South Hams – sussh.org
Devon Wildlife Trust – devonwildlifetrust.org
South Dartmoor Community Energy – sdce.org.uk
Greener Ugborough Parish – ugborough.com/g-up