From Charity

Handmade crochet poppies at Cheltenham Town Hall

Ash Dykes © Jason Aspinall, via Flickr
Ash Dykes © Jason Aspinall, via Flickr

My husband, the in-laws and I recently went to Cheltenham Town Hall to hear a talk by adventurer and explorer Ash Dykes. Ash is a young man from Wales who, in 2014, became the first person to trek – solo and unsupported – across the width of Mongolia. In 2016 he became the first person to walk the length of Madagascar, while at the same time summiting its 8 highest mountains!

We go to see these “Speakers from the Edge” talks quite regularly – they’re so inspirational! Among others, we’ve heard Sir Ranulph Fiennes talk about his mountaineering and polar expeditions, Ed Stafford regale us with tales of his walk along the length of the Amazon River, and TV presenter Ben Fogle telling us all about the adventures he has had both on and off-screen.

It always strikes me just how normal these people are (with perhaps the exception of Ranulph Fiennes who, it must be said, is genuinely a bit bonkers!). There’s often nothing all that special about their upbringing or their every day lives, they just dared to do something different. Although I can’t necessarily see myself bagging an extreme “world first”, I do always come away from these talks full of enthusiasm and renewed commitment to try and make my own life as full as it possibly can be.

In fact, although it sounds a bit mundane, one of the best things I ever did was to quit my job working for “The Man” (well, actually “The Woman”, in my case) to become self-employed. It was very scary, quitting a stable, well-paid job to go it alone, but it wasn’t making me happy – far from it, in fact. I now work as a freelance science writer and editor, and of course make my handmade crochet poppies, flowers, and kusadama paper flowers too!

Anyway, I digress…

© GCHQ 2017
© GCHQ 2017

What does this all have to do with handmade flowers?! Well, while popping to loo at Cheltenham Town Hall, I was stunned to see a beautiful ‘waterfall’ of handmade crochet poppies on display in the lobby!

After a bit of research, I discovered that these handmade fabric and yarn flowers had originally been on display at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is based on the outskirts of Cheltenham. The display contains over 9000 handmade crochet poppies that were made by GCHQ friends and family, children, teachers and parents from local schools, village “stitch and bitch” groups and local branches of the Women’s Institute (WI).

© GCHQ 2017
© GCHQ 2017

The poppy waterfall, as well as the sale of a further 4000 handmade crochet poppies, has so far raised nearly £20,000 in aid of the Gloucestershire branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL). The RBL supports all generations of the military family to live on to a more hopeful future.

The poppies are only on display until mid-April, so they may have already gone. If you don’t get a chance to go and see them yourself, click here to find out how else you can make a donation to this worthwhile charity.

 

GAGA UK’s Remembering Tree

Remembering-Tree-cropped-450x276
© Tom Benjamin, Go Cotswolds. Used with permission.

Based in my hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, Goodwill and Growth for Africa UK (GAGA-UK) is a charity that works to “generate growth for African children and communities devastated by HIV-AIDS and poverty, through the goodwill of people in the UK and elsewhere”. It establishes and supports projects in southern Africa to provide a “hand up” not a “hand out” – in other words, working with communities to empower people to find ways out of poverty. Read more