The Wombles of Walton Dam.

Words by Nicola Chapman.

 Issue no. 56 – August 2014.

Nicola Harris Photography

If you went to Somersall Park and Walton Dam for the duck race in June you’d be forgiven for feeling as though you’d entered a fairy festival, set in a glade in a wood, beside the river. Stalls had been assembled, food and drink were being served, people meandered around, pleased to be out of the heat of the sun; chatted, socialised and caught up with friends and neighbours. It felt like a little bit of magic. Well that’s not the only magic happening around the dam – there are the Walton Wombles, tidying up the rubbish that the everyday folk leave behind.

The area, from the bridge at the end of Somersall Park right down to Walton Road, is private land, owned by Robinsons PLC and as such isn’t maintained by the council.

In 2007, a group of around 20 people formed the Friends of Walton Dam to help take care of the area. Unfortunately that group has dwindled to just six people over the last seven years. Those six local people – Anne Meakin, Kath Higson, Rachel Driver, John Tait, Christine Bathe and Glenice, now voluntarily do the work – organising litter picks and emptying the bin which they installed to keep the place tidy. Over the years they’ve also installed the three benches along the side of the dam and around 20 bird boxes, which they have to arrange to be cleaned out each year.

They’re a group we should be incredibly grateful to as it’s a part of Chesterfield which is precious to many – an oasis of calm and an alternative walking/cycling route to the busy Chatsworth Road. Used for bowling, cricket, football, angling, canoeing, to simply play in and a nearby area giving people a space where they can breathe and gain a sense of wellbeing. For some of the local elderly residents the installed benches are a god-send – having commented “If I have a sit down at each of the benches, I can get through the park and down to Morrison’s. It’s just the rest points I need to get out and enjoy the environment”.

But, with only six members the group is in need of some new blood, some new ideas and a bit of new energy. “We’ve loved being involved and we get a great sense of achievement when we see people resting on the benches and enjoying the views. But we’ve been doing it for seven years now and we’re getting a little jaded. We need some new people to get involved and help us out” explains Anne.

“But there are small things people can do to help out, without getting involved in the meetings and the group. If everyone picked up a bit of litter as they wandered through and took it home, there’d be less need for us to collect. If people took their rubbish or dog poo bags home, or just dropped them in the council bins installed in the Somersall Park or on Walton Road, we’d have to empty the bins less often and that would really help us out”.

“We are currently investigating whether we can become a registered charity so we can raise funds to support the work we do.”

“Work so far has been funded with £5,300 from Lottery funds in 2007 and recently Morrison’s have offered support by providing bags for the bins and gloves for the people emptying them, free of charge, which is great” says Anne.

If you love the oasis that is Walton Dam and would like to help out The Friends, they’d love to hear from you.

It’s not a massive task and you’ll be pleased to know that unlike The Wombles it’s not necessary to have a pointy nose and live in a burrow. Call John on 01246 203712.

The friends would like to express their thanks to former members Mavis Dentith and Margaret Marcombe for the help and time they’ve given the group over the years.

And yes that is one of Paul’s four Womble’s albums signed by Orinoco himself!

Pictures show views from around the Dam, including Shane Calton one of S40 Local’s advertisers, Palace Roofline, with a monster of a Mirror Carp landed at the Dam recently.

 

Photography by Nicola Harris