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Creating a sense of community at Attenborough Station

Creating a sense of community at Attenborough Station

Attenborough Elderflowers is a railway station adoption group based in the Nottinghamshire village of Attenborough. The group was set up in 2017 by members of the local gardening club, which gave rise to the group’s floral themed name.

At their inception, Attenborough Elderflowers set themselves the task of restoring the station’s gardens. Since that time, the original Elderflowers has evolved as a group, welcoming new additions from across the community, including the local pre-school nursery which has a floral planter in the station that the children help maintain.

As part of the restoration project and to ensure that it met users’ needs, both commuters and residents were surveyed about their views on the station. The ensuing results demonstrated high levels of support for the creation of new planting schemes as well as finding ways of highlighting the history of the station and the village. As a result, Attenborough Elderflowers devised a three part plan:

  1. Planting up platform one;
  2. Planting up platform two;
  3. Creating story boards to tell the story of the station and village.

Finding the necessary funding

Financing projects can be difficult for voluntary groups but there is often funding available for relevant station improvements. The Elderflowers secured a grant from Nottinghamshire County Council based on the criteria of maintaining and enhancing community health and cohesion. They were also successful in attracting funding from the National Lottery Community Fund based around environmental welfare, health and social cohesion. To fulfil the conditions of the grant, the first phase involved using recycled materials with plants supplied via donations. Additional funding came from sponsorship of planters by local businesses, organisations and families, with donations from residents and commuters helping to fund phases two and three.

With all phases now complete, the group of approximately 20 volunteers maintain and seasonally refurbish the planters on the platforms. Each planter is ‘owned’ by an adopter. Alongside planters constructed and repurposed from materials, Attenborough Elderflowers also use a range of Amberol self-watering planters.

Solving the water issue

Gary Smerdon-White of Attenborough Elderflowers explains: “We were aware of Amberol from our early research, but the first tranche of funding was based on recycling and initially we weren’t sure how much funding we’d attract. However, we realised that watering would soon become a problem: there is no water resource on the station except for rainwater from the pedestrian bridge over the rail lines. So, as funding improved we decided to invest in some Amberol planters to help address the watering issue.”

The group was also reassured by feedback from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) award assessors which helped convince the Elderflowers of the conservation and convenience benefits of using self-watering planters. Ready access to water for plants is an issue at many stations, and so self-watering containers are seen as a simple way of addressing this problem.

So far, Attenborough Elderflowers have Amberol floor standing planters as well as self-watering fence-hung planters on platform two. “The planters are ideal for our purposes; they save time and water and have resolvedthe watering problems we had during periods of drought,” comments Gary.

A colourful choice

Amberol planters are available in 18 standard colours and bespoke colours can also be supplied ed on request. Many station adoption groups use planters in their station colours so this flexibility can be appealing. Gary explains: “Having a choice of planter colours was also important to us once we’d decided to paint the platform one planters green and happily Amberol was able to supply these in the colour we wanted.”

Attenborough station 150

Formal feedback about the enhancements from planned chats with commuters has been positive, as well as the more personal on-the-spot thanks to the adopters when they are working on the station. Gary also points out that interestingly Attenborough Station is now used for more than commuting, with wider use across the community, e.g. carers bringing the elderly, small children or people with learning and other disabilities to sit amongst the plants and watch the trains go by. During the various Covid-induced lockdowns friends have also met safely within official guidelines to sit and chat in the attractive station environs whilst self-distancing.

Maintenance made easy

When asked what he most likes about Amberol planters, Gary replies: “They are easy to install without any security brackets; they do the job and there is less need for regular day-by-day watering. In a nutshell, they make maintenance easy.” He also rates Amberol’s customer service highly saying: “The team at Amberol are always very helpful and delivery was exemplary - although it does come at a cost. I’d happily recommend Amberol products to others. They aren’t cheap to buy but if they offer value for money and continue to last and perform well over time, we will definitely look to raise the funding for more.”

For more information about Amberol’s range of self-watering planters, litter bins, planterware, benches and picnic tables, call 01773 830 930 or email sales@amberol.co.uk.