Bags of help

Graham Gowman chair of Romsey Men’s Shed writes:

‘Back in early March 2016 it was early days for our Shed. 11 of us were meeting whilst looking for a proper premises but had nothing else we could get our teeth into by way of a project. One of our members had a contact from Romsey Riverwalk Project. The River Test runs through Romsey on the west side and is a ‘national treasure’ etc, except that the banks are eroding and in danger of causing a lot of damage.

You would have thought that this would have been the responsibility of the River Authority, the Environment Agency or some such, apparently not. The river bank is owned but it would appear no single person or organisation is responsible for upkeep. There is a track which runs from the A27 road some 200 mts to Saddlers Mill, the track also serves 6 other properties and following some previous threat of flooding the owners of these properties decided to do something about the problem.

Consultations were held with various experts and interested parties. The upshot was that we adopted the Environment Agency’s method of a timber jig which enabled multiple sandbags to be filled at the same time with aggregate and inert soil media and laid in place to protect the riverbank. It would only take 25000 sandbags and the job would be done!

Our man (Ron Bowater) was asked to make the jig, the residents would provide the sacks and the fill media, and plenty of hands and cups of tea. Lots of fundraising was going to be required and indeed achieved by the residents.

On 5th May 2016 five of our members put themselves to the test along with other Riverwalk volunteers and filled the first of many sandbags using the jig, it worked really well, and between the Shedders and residents, wheelbarrows and shovels we made short work of a couple of tons of fill media. Separate sorties were organised and eventually sandbags were laid, all this in a quite deep and fast flowing river.

Tesco were one of the early funders and as is the way organisations always want to fund something in particular. In this case Tesco wanted to fund a set of ‘dog steps’ which allowed dogs to enter and exit the river without causing further damage to the riverbank. These steps were manufactured and in place and some 5000 sandbags positioned when the project was officially opened by the Romsey Town Mayor on 13th October.

Bags of help  There were a number of interested parties at this opening and I found myself standing next to the Regional Tesco Community Champion, we soon got to talking about the Shed movement and I was delighted to be invited (encouraged even) to complete an application for funds ‘up to £5000’ from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme.  A part of this ‘deal’ was that we talked to someone in Salisbury who had a project and maybe wanted to start a Shed. At the time of writing we are still talking to people in Salisbury and I am sure in due time they will have a Shed.

We have been told that in the not too distant future we will receive some funds from Tesco, a minimum of £1000 so the whole exercise has been very worthwhile for all concerned, and if anyone ever gets the opportunity to view the project which will be ongoing for at least two years I hope you will be suitably impressed. And no, nobody has yet ‘taken a bath’ in the river whilst placing the bags !

You can all access the Tesco Bags of Help scheme online and very helpful it is too.’

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