Saturday 15 September 2012

We Will Gather

This week I attended the launch of We Will Gather in London. Built by those lovely folks at Revolutionary Arts, backed by the Office for Civil Society and Nesta, the site's raison d'ĂȘtre is to facilitate the coming together of good people to do good things. 

Dan Thompson introduces
The site's founders, Dan Thompson (Empty Shops Network and Revolutionary Arts), Sophie Collard and Lloyd Davis have strong track records in facilitating and enabling people to, you know, do stuff.  As Lloyd put it at the launch, this is organising without organisation. We will Gather itself is an idea, a collection of other people's actions brought together through enabling technology.

So, to give it a try three days ago I registered a gardening action on the Square where I live here in Margate. I tweeted '#wewillgather help ct9 1ph' and the site automatically created an event for me to then fill in the details. My proposal was for five people to come together to help weed the rose bed and to remove the dead blooms.

Within a few minutes a fellow Margatonian had joined up and Margate tweeps were enthusiastic at the idea.

Today a total of five people turned up at the agreed hour of midday. Bags, gloves and tools in hand. We got to work in the sunshine. We chatted about new things and learnt of other events to go to. Passers by stopped and asked if they could be involved in future gardening events. One lady, called Rose, said she loved gardening and would love to join in. A series of three couples sat on the opposite bench for a while and each one made a comment at how much better it looked and said what a great idea it was.

One simple tweet, with one simple proposition lead to me connecting physically with a total of 13 people in a constructive way in my neighbourhood. Nevermind the number of people we reached through social media. We even made it, unbeknown to me, into the local paper. Without We Will Gather this would not have happened.

Those of us working within our communities know how hard it can be to recruit the willing. How much more energy than executing the task at hand it takes. The site is still in beta I believe and already I can think of ways that it might be improved. But this will all come through using it and feeding back. This activity is a two way street. As is the work that many of us do within our communities. We're not just there to pick up the pieces of the broken and the underfunded. To step in and resolve the mismanaged. We're also there to be listened to.

David Cameron heaped some praise this week:

“Dan Thompson showed the best of Britain by helping organise the clean-up operation after last summer’s riots. He also demonstrated the power of the internet as a force for good: bringing people together to make a difference in their community. That’s why I’m delighted that the Innovation in Giving Fund has been able to support Dan to launch #wewillgather. This site will make it easier for people to stand up and join others to make a difference – I wish it every success.” David Cameron

If you want to implement the so called Big Society you have to facilitate and promote the coming together of people. We are social creatures. Good things happen when people connect in a good way. Even wondering what the next action to register on the site will be re-engages you with your environment and community. You start to look around, notice things that could be better. Small things that can be attended to to make a difference. We Will Gather goes some way towards this.

At Tuesday's launch I began thinking about a possible phase 2.  A #WeWillGatherMinds. Where the application can bring together expertise and vision of people not necessarily within the same postcode. But more of a meeting of minds. Working on many ranging almost governmental projects at the moment there are times when what is needed is input into specialist areas.

But for now, happy and content with the improved rose bed and an hour well spent.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Margate Dog Walks - Below Minnis (Between Reculver and Minnis Bay)

Margate is surrounded by great countryside. I'm a Sheffield girl and have an affinity with moorland. We certainly don't have hilltops and height here in Thanet, but there is something familiar to me in the flatlands below the shoreline, where rough scrub grows amidst the water channels with reed beds threading their way through fields. Being able to see for miles across this lowland terrain is probably why it reminds me of moorland. To me it seems like low moorland, but without the winds. Totally not what I expected would be here in terms of countryside. Think Kent, think garden of England, rolling green. Coastal Kent is marketed for the well known white cliffs country and beaches. But between the sea and the green there is a wildness well worth exploring. Perfect for dog walking!

I have a couple of pointer dogs and they and I prefer getting away from town life to walk. They can range, so I've sought out areas where I can see for miles. Margate is perfect for getting out into the wilds, with miles of raw beaches. Often in high season, you can be on a beach all to yourself. Which is what makes the Thanet coastline, so remarkable. Really, where else is there within easy reach of London can you hit empty beaches of such beauty in July and August?

One of my favourite walks is through the network of lower flatland fields and channels below the shoreline between Minnis Bay and Reculver. I used to reach these from the seawall walk that runs between Minnis Bay and Reculver. I had often wondered how I could get to the network of fields and tracks that run the other side of the railway line. So I got myself an Ordnance Survey map of Thanet.

As the owner of wayward hunting dogs, finding open country with public rights of way was crucial. I can't walk my dogs off lead in parks surrounded by traffic and Margate is surrounded by hectares of fields. Most of these rights of way aren't signposted.

Start of the walk

I start this walk by parking up at a group of farm buildings off the old Thanet Rd. There is a concrete track running towards the direction of the sea.  It's locked by a gate. Reculver lies to the left at approximately eleven o'clock in the distance and Minnis Bay to the right.

The fields on either side of the track can be explored. There can be bunnies! The track has a ditch running along side. Mine go in for drinks and do come out stinking. So beware!

At the top of the track is a river which is a private fishing club. There are rich hedgerows here: sloes, hawthorn, rosehip and blackberries. I've found them to be a month behind the other side of the railway tracks. You can choose to walk along the side of the riverbank below the hedgerows or above on a dirt track. The route is part of the Wantsum Walk.

Take care if you have a dog as you approach the railway line level crossing. You can see the trains coming from a long distance. But make sure you have your dog on lead in case. Once over the crossing  you can choose to go left to Reculver, right to Minnis Bay or straight ahead to the sea.

Personally, I like to go straight ahead so I leave the train line behind me. My dog chases trains! The water channel snakes out from the sea and again, you can choose to walk along the river bank or above on a dirt track. The raised seawall ahead with runners, walkers and cyclists. But far less busy than the stretch of walk closer to either end at Reculver or Minnis.

river after the railway track

Minnis Bay in the far distance

Shoreline ahead
Apple tree along the path

Coming up off the fields on to the seawall pathway, there is Reculver to the left. 

The beach here is shingle. It has an atmosphere akin to Dungeness. Some kind of strange type of fennel grows in abundance in frothy beds. A different type than found at Pegwell Bay. I'm not sure it's even edible! It smells like fennel but didn't taste like it. It's a fantastic spot to view wild birds.

Perfect for paddling at half way in the walk

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I either go on towards Reculver, but stay in the lower fields or I return down the path I came on to get back where I started. Here's a map of the walk on Google Maps.