During the first lockdown in 2020 many people felt isolated. Sussex Green Living (SGL) thought it was important to connect people and to continue its work improving the environment. SGL’s Carrie Cort organised weekly online Horsham Climate Café events. Some of these attracted over 150 people, both local and from further afield. One of the aims of the café was to introduce people ‘virtually’ from the same villages and this is when the seed of Billingshurst environmental group BilliGreen was planted.
The group was started by Mela Davidson and Melanie Holliker who both wanted to create a network that boosted the local community and had a positive impact on the local environment.
“We wanted to involve people who weren’t necessarily environmentalists but who were passionate about where they lived.”
They were keen to improve the natural environment locally and one of their first initiatives was the ‘No Mow’ policy. Carrie introduced Mela to the Parish Council and they requested maps to show the areas they were responsible for. Mela then worked with wildlife experts, creating a working party that marked up the maps with ‘no mow’ areas. The District Council got on board too (thanks to Helen Toole) and there are now some wonderful fields around the edge of Billingshurst village that are managed for wildlife.
The Unitarian Chapel in the village wanted to renature their churchyard. Viviane Doussy and Tony Whitbread (President of Sussex Wildlife Trust) visited the Chapel and made a plan. The churchyard is now a haven for nature.
When Sussex Green Living was launched in 2012, Carrie set up the first drop off location for single-use plastic at the nursery in Billingshurst. Over the last 10 years many Horsham District village drop off locations have been established between village volunteers and Sussex Green Living, then Melanie volunteered for Billingshurst. Melanie is passionate about plastic waste and reducing unnecessary items from being thrown away so was keen to set up a recycling scheme for the village that targeted the hard-to-recycle items that the council and supermarkets can’t take.
Melanie engaged with the Unitarian Chapel in the village and a team of 11 volunteers who sort through the recycling once a fortnight with a recycling drop-off location now at the Chapel Car Park, Lakers Meadow, RH14 9NP.
“In the past 2 years, BilliGreen have recycled nearly a ton of single use plastic and given nearly 700 hours of volunteering.” says Melanie.
Mela believes that the secret to their success is engaging and inspiring individuals and giving them the network and resources to make a difference.
“A lot of what we do is connecting people. We can’t do everything ourselves but aim to empower others.”
Litter Hurts our Critters
This is certainly true for the involvement of the pupils of Billingshurst Primary School, Natalie Hunt, Eco Lead at the School, was introduced to BilliGreen by Carrie. The Eco Team consists of 21 pupils who meet once a month to discuss environmental issues and how they can make a difference in school. They take the ideas back to their classroom to share with their classmates.
Inspired by a conversation with one of the Parish Council’s cleansing operatives, Mela had a poster idea around litter and how dropping it can hurt our wildlife not just in the oceans but locally. BilliGreen collaborated with Julie Green, the village neighbourhood warden, and took the idea to the primary school. Connecting litter and its impact locally really engaged the children as it made it real and tangible for them.
Carrie took Sussex Green Living’s Eco Inspiration Float to school and brought the issues and solutions to life. Natalie then arranged for the school to take part in the South Downs National Park and Sussex Green Living Eco Art Competition which was themed around litter. The Reception Class won 3rd prize in the competition.
The children still had a bee in their bonnet about litter and with lockdown over, last summer they made a video involving all year groups. This year the Eco Council is setting up an after-school litter picking club. Some of the children can’t wait to get started and are planning to collect litter in half term.
The Apple Tree Community Theatre
Another initiative came from one of Sussex Green Living’s environmental education roadshow partners and Billingshurst resident, Clive Cobie, he wanted to create an orchard theatre. This is a collection of fruit trees planted in an arc to create a community space that can be used as a theatre, social space or outside classroom. The apple trees will also benefit bees and other insects.
BilliGreen introduced Sue, a retired Teaching Assistant, Natalie and Clive and they worked together with the School Eco Team planting 16 trees into a beautiful apple tree theatre that everyone can now enjoy.
The latest initiative from BilliGreen is to set up a Food Hub to reduce food waste. Feedback from social media suggests residents are very supportive of this idea. Working in collaboration with the Billingshurst Community Partnership and several local church groups, the Food Hub will be a place where supermarket food that is destined for landfill, can be collected and used by residents. Ultimately, it is hoped that the Food Hub will be developed to include a space where local people can bring their surplus garden fruit and vegetables for others to collect and use, and to deliver a series of ‘Cooking on a Budget’ cookery sessions for those who want to learn and improve their cooking and food budgeting skills.
Sussex Green Living’s purpose is to mentor and share best practice with village environmental groups like BilliGreen so they can launch initiatives that positively impact their local community. The charity has taken their eco float to support the village show and elevate BilliGreen’s message at the summer show, the village Christmas fete and even in Christmas 2020 took the float pre retrofitting to visit three residential homes in Billingshurst and the William Penn School.
“Everyone’s actions matter” says Mela, “we just want to inspire people and connect them.”
The results speak for themselves as BilliGreen have achieved so much in 2 years and the results are already visible across the village.
For further information
Learn more about BilliGreen at their Facebook Group or email . For more information on how Sussex Green Living can support your local community, contact