Wednesday, 21 January 2015


CATHY Harvey is the co-ordinator of Bridport’s Allington Hill Volunteer Group, affectionately known as the Allington ‘Hillbillies’, and has lived in the area for most of her life. She works in retail and is married to Jon, who worked as a member of the local police team before retiring. Cathy became involved in the ‘Hillbillies’ group soon after it was formed in 2011 and has been part of the committee ever since. Over the last four years, Cathy has worked tirelessly alongside a dedicated team of volunteers to improve the state of Allington Hill and Cooper’s Wood, two of Bridport’s best-loved green spaces.

HOW long have you lived in the area?
I have lived in the area for about 30 years, moving to North Allington 22 years ago. I’m happily married to Jon who was the local bobby until he retired. I’ve worked in retail all my working life - and I’m very much a people person, so it suits me down to the ground, except that I’m stuck indoors!

HOW did the ‘Hillbillies’ group get off the ground?
The Allington Hill Volunteer Group was started by the Woodland Trust in January 2011 with the first working party laying a hedge. The state of the hedge had bothered me for ages and I had moaned about it every time I walked past, so felt duty bound to go along. They held a meeting several months later and I offered to do a bi-monthly newsletter – I think I’m just about to send out number 26!  To raise funds for the hill we had to form a committee. Many were willing to sit on the committee but none would take on the role of chair. It seemed I had no choice and reluctantly took on the role. We have a great team, with a broad base of talents, including keeping me under control! I often get told to stop thinking. Since then, Allington Parish Council has taken over the lease on part of the area known as Cooper's Wood and Field. The community has really got involved in all the events that take place. They are often community-led and we involve local people whenever we can.

WHAT was it that drew you to the group?
There were two reasons why I joined the group. Except for the local shop, North Allington has no community facilities, such as a hall or school, that can bring people together. 
I was brought up in a small village and lived next to the village hall. One of my lasting memories was the year that we were snowed in and the village lost its electricity. My Dad visited everyone in the village and told them to go to the village hall where he had lit the log burner. They brought food with them and my Mum cooked a massive meal on our Rayburn. 
Everyone stayed warm and was well fed – it turned out to be quite a party too! I felt we needed a community focal point and this was it. Secondly, the Woodland Trust still used chemicals on the hill to control ragwort and nettles. We now do this by hand and work closely with the trust to make sure this is a chemical-free zone.

WHAT is the next event or project for the Allington Hillbillies?
Last year we applied for grants for the community area, Cooper’s Wood and Field. A First World War memorial bench is being made by Stan Toombs from solid oak, and this will be installed and trees planted nearby, supplied by the Woodland Trust. We also have grant money to improve the access to the hill for all the community. We are working every Sunday morning – weather permitting – to restore the boundary line in Cooper’s Field.

WHAT inspires you most?
I get my inspiration from my mum and dad. The older I get the more I realise how much they have shaped my life. I’m a farmer’s daughter, even though my dad gave it up in the 1970s. He was a traditional farmer and hated what we were doing to our countryside with all the pesticides and chemicals. He said we were killing the countryside. He has been proved right and I’m now trying to do my bit, in a very small way, to restore the damage. Another inspiration of mine, and someone who many people may remember, was Memeikia Jellicoe – an inspirational lady who I will never forget. She was a lovely lady who I started gardening for. She had taught in South Africa and traveled widely. She told me about her adventures and the people that she had met, and always said that language is no barrier. If you really want to do something, you will make it happen. 

DO YOU have any ambitions in life?
My hope is that one day I will be able to afford to travel. Other cultures fascinate me. I have been to China and the raw culture there that has not been westernised or made a tourist attraction was so varied. They are desperately trying to hold on to the many varied cultures and religions within the country. I would also love to learn to play a musical instrument, but I can’t even clap to a rhythm. I often wish I could play the guitar, but it would be beyond me.

DO YOU take part in any other community organisations or groups? 
Unfortunately I find I just don’t have enough hours in the day!

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